Sara Cwynar attacks photographic flatness, the digital manipulation of images, appropriation, accretion, our present-day cargo-cult apocalypse of worthless tchotchkes, and all the other instruments she’s young enough to take for granted instead of belaboring with a virtuosic ad-hoc analog gusto. Contemporary Floral Arrangement 5 (A Compact Mass), for example, began with a card deaccessioned from the New York Public Library Picture Collection that showed a flower arrangement in an alabaster urn. Ms. Cwynar scanned, enlarged and reprinted this image in sections on 30 new cards, which she then taped together on the floor. Then, before reshooting this reconstituted picture from above, she doubled the flowers with an adroitly colorful arrangement of hotel keys and soaps; matchbooks from the Ritz-Carlton, Betty and Harry’s wedding and a restaurant that’s been serving lunch and dinner since 1936; Scrabble tiles, pencils, a camera flash, dice, birthday candles, padlocks, yardsticks, power cords, shoelaces, price stickers, knitting needles, paperbacks, Pantone cards, a snapshot, a baseball card and a bilingual Canadian pillbox—every object casting its own centripetal shadow.
Elsewhere around the gallery, stock images moved rapidly over scanners to create a lovely CMYK bleed or faces melting like television static, complex constructions of tiled-image-cum-Post-it notes, and elaborately modified photos of candy on display show the same thorough thought process, the same deep intimacy with the current state of the image; but the thinking serves primarily to ensure the stability of our aesthetic pleasure. To paraphrase the composer Peter Schickele quoting Duke Ellington, “If it looks good, it is good.”
(Through May 3, 2014)