The most fully transparent of all the multiply exposed, deceptively transparent photographs in Matthew Porter’s show “High Difference”—a WWI-era style of camouflage that aimed to dissemble and disorient rather than conceal, “High Difference” would also be a good name for the kind of easy-spirited conceptual double cross that seems to be the fairest flower of our world-weary age—is Field, a color print nearly 5 feet high. Against a background of cosmically primordial blue, Mr. Porter arranged a section of square, wooden latticework, a bookshelf, four gear-like drill bits, a decorative iron star, a coil of pipe, a candlestick, a microscope, some lengths of tablecloth in a pattern of blue and white stripes with alternating white and blue flowers, and a hexagonal wooden table painted green—all of it as neatly balanced and distributed as a workbench waiting for a studio visit. Each of these tools simultaneously demonstrates, enacts and debunks some equally Platonic tool of photography, art or color: The latticework looks off-white where it’s seen against the blue, and yellow against the green tabletop, and like milky water where it overlaps the equally translucent turquoise microscope. The angles of the drill bits’ teeth look like shadows of motion, as if they’re turning before our eyes; the table is separated like a Cubist woman into legs and face; the star is an appropriation and the tablecloth a repurposing; and the bookshelf is simultaneously a metaphor and a thing. The purely shaped tabletop is also grainy and carnal, and the heart-shaped cutouts in its legs are both flat and in perspective. The microscope suggests you look closely.
In the photograph High Difference, which shows an abstracted squiggle sofa chair in yellow or orange sheet steel, some segments of white-painted wire furniture, and another turquoise tool-become-icon, this one a wrench, Mr. Porter corrals Modernism as a social phenomenon, with a nod to the irrefutability of personality—a lavender gear is either a monocle or boutonniere, depending on where you’re standing. In Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, a straight photograph, Mr. Porter cancels his gorgeous aesthetic gesture by choosing as his subject a decommissioned lighthouse in Baltimore. A woman’s legs clad in specially commissioned tights printed in jarringly geometric high difference appear in Force Lines, Vector Field and two of the untitled Polaroid studies Mr. Porter uses to set up the composition. Their sensual ease and energy are alluringly uncoupled from their specifics: Good luck guessing where she’s headed.
(Through April 13, 2014)