Friday, November 9, 2012

ERICA BAUM AT BUREAU


Erica Baum at Bureau

Erica Baum’s second solo show at Bureau invited the viewer to explore a thoughtfully-curated and somewhat mysterious pictorial narrative.  In “Naked Eye,” Baum displayed a series of photographs of the pictures that illustrate several weathered paperback books.  Each snapshot creates a somewhat alarming disconnect between that which is contained in the pages of the book and the book itself.  The photographs are closely-framed images of the fanned-out pages of each book, flattening the three-dimensional object and leaving the observer to sort out exactly what is being viewed.  These compositions resemble carefully constructed collages of black and white portraits placed among strips of brightly colored vertical page edges.  Baum recontextualizes printed pictures, taking these common paperback books and adopting new perspectives as a way to encourage the viewer to derive his or her own narrative from the collection of unsettling images.

Immediately upon looking at each photo, similar themes begin to emerge, linking each picture to the other.  There’s something strangely sinister about each photograph: a cropped image of bare legs, a man bound to a chair - it’s as if you’ve stumbled upon a peep hole and you know your presence may be unwelcome.  The theme of desire develops in the nudity, sexuality, and drama, and is ultimately mirrored by our desire to see more of the picture in each frame.  In Shift, for example, the viewer is permitted to slyly peak into the world of a woman who does not notice her observer, though her expression alludes to a knowledge that she is being watched.  She glances over her shoulder in such a way as to invite the desires of the viewer.  Continued observation is allowed because her entrapment inside the pages of the book will never expose the voyeurs.  

Erica Baum, Shift, 2012


The display of the photographs at Bureau is straightforward and not overly crowded.  Had the gallery decided to display more images, the dramatic aspects of the desire present in the images may have gotten lost in an excessively complicated narrative.  Giving the viewer an ample opportunity to interact with a photograph like Shift allows the imagined narrative to progress.  Baum’s compositions enhance the voyeuristic theme that winds its way in and out of each abstracted frame.  Because we are not looking directly into the book that was photographed, and are ultimately unable to confront the subject directly, the point of view becomes a somewhat jarring, uncomfortable glimpse into this printed world of “Naked Eye.”  

4 comments:

  1. Good work describing this show! I like your analysis of the experience of the viewer with the pieces, particularly the discussion of the meta photograph. There are parts in the first paragraph that might be a little confusing to someone who hasn't seen the show yet, though. You mention the collage-like appearance of the portraits framed by colored verticals- it might be helpful to mention that the verticals are from the edges of pages in the book. You also mention an evolving narrative several times, but the narrative seems to be fairly consistent to me. The individual pieces each fit within a concept, but I don't perceive a strong sense of a progression in an overarching story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good work describing this show! I like your analysis of the experience of the viewer with the pieces, particularly the discussion of the meta photograph. There are parts in the first paragraph that might be a little confusing to someone who hasn't seen the show yet, though. You mention the collage-like appearance of the portraits framed by colored verticals- it might be helpful to mention that the verticals are from the edges of pages in the book. You also mention an evolving narrative several times, but the narrative seems to be fairly consistent to me. The individual pieces each fit within a concept, but I don't perceive a strong sense of a progression in an overarching story.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You present several compelling interpretations of this work, such as the feeling of looking into a peephole and the overall sense of mystery. I am a bit confused by your argument concerning "narrative." The term is used many times in the review, but I think it could be explained better how the specific images in the show create a unified narrative. Perhaps the relation to the concept of "narrative" is brought up by the encapsulation of these photos in book pages? The review might also benefit from another close examination of one piece. Your discussion of "Shift" is thoughtful, but feels tacked on at the end, and crowds your concluding sentence. The insights are definitely here, but I think the structural organization could be tweaked a bit.

    ReplyDelete