Dark, densely textured images seem to float on the stark white walls of the Marlborough Chelsea, the mostly massive black and white photographs fill the space with an almost unrecognizable, vaguely ominous mood. “Wherever You Go” is a considered collection of new photographs, photocopies and film by renowned photographer, filmmaker and artist Ari Marcopoulos.
“It’s as much about photography as it is about printmaking,” says Marcopoulos about the selection of high-contrast images. Shot predominantly with a 35mm point-and-shoot, the large-scale pigment prints and smaller photographs on rice paper are often printed multiple times and blown up to expose a gritty quality. Similarly Marcopoulos experiments with additional, non-photographic printed matter by layering photocopied imagery that evokes a visceral experience enhanced by the ability to walk up close and really see each minute detail of the bigger picture—a signature characteristic of Marcopoulos’ shows. But while each image finds identity in its distinct textures, the subjects themselves strike a cord with the viewer as well. “I think there is certain power in the images, a certain strength when you look at them. They’re kind of heavy images,” admits Marcopoulos.
Best known for his portraiture, Marcopoulos starts to stray from the expected with the inclusion of some more abstract images that remove all apparent context. “I like the idea of looking at something where you dont have an exact idea of what it is. It’s nice to make something where your first reaction is not words but just a feeling.”
Feeling this way upon seeing the unnamed image dated 5.8.08, we asked Marcopoulos to elaborate on the compelling photograph of stained skin. “It’s very close up,” he says. “It’s hard to tell what it is. It kind of has to do with the idea that as a photographer or in photography so often the images are about what it is you’re looking at. So this is kind of more about just creating a rectangle, that doesn’t really inform you as to what it is. It’s open you know. It’s more of a mood or a feeling.”
While some artists may shoot specifically for a show, Marcopoulos prefers to focus on a vague idea, letting the body of work develop organically. “A lot of thought goes into it, but in the end it’s very intuitive, it’s like improvisation,” says Marcopoulos. “You have an idea in your head and you do what you feel is needed to get it done. That idea is often not a wordy idea because you work in images, so the ideas are images in your head. The only way to get it done is actually select images—it can be one image, but it’s often two or three—and then put it together. Sounds very abstract but that’s kind of how it is. There is not ever one theme.”
While the large-scale prints and enlarged photocopies dominate the show, Marcopoulos chose to include a projected film with a colorful splash of life that contrasts nicely with the still black and white environment. Entitled “City Riders”, the voyeuristic piece was shot in a few short months with Marcopoulos’ BlackBerry, capturing about an hour’s worth of unsuspecting NYC subway commuters.
“Wherever You Go” opens tonight at NYC’s Marlborough Chelsea with a reception from 6-8pm. The show will then run through 16 June 2012.
Installation image by Ari Marcopoulos