PHOTOBOOK REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS AND WRITE-UPS
ALONG WITH THE LATEST PHOTO-EYE NEWS

Social Media


photo-eye Gallery Gallery Artist News — May 2017 photo-eye Gallery is pleased to share information regarding current exhibitions at museums and project spaces featuring Richard Tuschman, Linda Connor, and Laurie Tümer.

  

photo-eye Gallery is pleased to share information regarding current exhibitions featuring Richard Tuschman, Linda Connor, and Laurie Tümer.


Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Christopher J Johnson Christopher J Johnson selects Fruit Garden presented by Sputnik Photo as Book of the Week.
Fruit Garden  By Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczynski, 
Andrei Liankevich, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, 
Adam Panczuk and Agnieszka Rayss. Sputnik Photos, 2017.
Christopher J Johnson selects Fruit Garden presented by Sputnik Photos. Designed by Ania Nałęcka-Milach/ TapirBookDesign

"Fruit Garden is the third installment in the Lost Territories Archive from the Sputnik Photo Collective. The first installment was the book Wordbook, which was reviewed in an earlier Book of the Week selection this year; the second installation was a gallery exhibition entitled SEDIMENT, which ran in Warsaw from October 2016-February 2017; the forthcoming fourth installment was also an exhibition which came down in April and had the title The New End.

The Lost Territories Archive body of work in its various forms attempts to look back at the former Soviet Union and the continued effects of it to this day in contemporary Russia and the former Soviet States; the focus of Fruit Garden is the Soviet era and science for which, as its starting point, it takes as pivotal a statement from a horticulturist named Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, 'We cannot wait for favors from nature. To take them from it — that is our task.'

Michurin sought to tamper with nature by hybridizing several plant species, however the global science community disproved his scientific doctrine even within his lifetime, despite this – the Soviet Union made the horticulturist’s ideas official Soviet belief.

This is a perfect metaphor for what Fruit Garden contains: the remnants of failed Soviet sciences, experiments and horrific military tinkering. Something strange however, and different from Wordbook, is that the photographs presented in the collection are not directly attributed to their photographers, instead the photographers (Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczynski, Andrei Liankevich, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, Adam Panczuk and Agnieszka Rayss) appear in a consolidated list at the back of the volume; whether intentional or not, I found this last fact disturbing when thought of in terms of the subject matter of the book itself — the work in Fruit Garden shows how a large empire, when it tries to apply a rule for all, does terrible and even absurd (the acceptance of disproved sciences, for example) things and the ones who suffer are the very citizens whom they sought to help; in a book peppered with (literal) graveyards, I was sad to see the photographers’ names removed from their works — the proletariat fails in the face of the individual and when a book is about exactly that, why should the photographers themselves have to suffer the same dehumanizing fate? Or maybe that’s the point." — Christopher J Johnson

Purchase Book

Fruit Garden  By Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczynski, Andrei Liankevich, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, Adam Panczuk and Agnieszka Rayss. 
Sputnik Photos, 2017.

Fruit Garden  By Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczynski, Andrei Liankevich, Michal Luczak, Rafal Milach, Adam Panczuk and Agnieszka Rayss. 
Sputnik Photos, 2017


Christopher J Johnson lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a resident writer for the Meow Wolf art collective. His first book of poetry, &luckier, has been released by the University of Colorado. He is Manager of photo-eye’s Book Division.


Book Review Rift/Fault By Marion Belanger Reviewed by Adam Bell Marion Belanger’s Rift/Fault follows a simple premise—photographs taken along the San Andreas fault in California (Fault), are paired and contrasted with images from the Mid-Atlantic Rift in Iceland (Rift)—but offers an expansive inquiry not only into our complex relationship to the Earth’s surface, but our precarious existence in fraught times.

Rift/Fault By Marion BelangerRadius Books, 2016.
 
Rift/Fault
Reviewed by Adam Bell

Rift/Fault.
Photographs by Marion Belanger. Text by Lucy Lippard.
Radius Books, Santa Fe, USA, 2016. 132 pp., 48 color illustrations, 13x10½".


photo-eye Gallery New Work: Jennifer Greenburg photo-eye Gallery is thrilled to share the exceptionally sharp series Revising History , our latest addition to the Photographer's Showcase.

I have never been good at handling unwarranted attention, 2015 © Jennifer Greenburg | Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 30", Edition of 3, $3,500

photo-eye Gallery is thrilled to announce Jennifer Greenburg, our latest addition to the Photographer's Showcase. Greenburg challenges social norms and the nature of vernacular photographs in her current series Revising History. Seamlessly interjecting herself in mid century images from the 1940's – 60's, Greenburg creates convincing counterfeit moments liberating the pictures from reality and reminding us of photography's fragile relationship with the truth. Revising History's imagery is exceptionally sharp with a sly sense of humor, while also touching on issues in today's culture and political climate in America.
"I illustrate the roles women typically found themselves in, in a past era, allegorically in order to identify that though things look different today, not enough has changed."
- Jennifer Greenburg

Something funny happened in the kitchen, 2010 © Jennifer Greenburg | Archival Pigment Print, 30 x 24", Edition of 5, $3,500 

"Revising History is a study on photography, the nature of the vernacular image, and its role in creating cultural allegories. The work intends to create a dialogue about the photograph as simulacrum- the moment versus the referent. To engage these layered truths, I replace the central figure in found vernacular photographs with an image of myself.

My dreams came true the day I did hair for a fashion show, 2013 © Jennifer Greenburg | Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 30", Edition of 5, $3,500

Vernacular images create cultural narratives that we tend to trust. The danger in this is we seem to have forgotten that the picture liberates the moment from reality, erases vantage, and is inevitably susceptible to a co-opted or underwritten fantasy. The American past is often glorified in our cultural memory and I propose that it is partially due to the photographic record made during that era. Images help us remember selectively, and the myths around the period perpetuate, in part, via collective vernacular contributions. Images that depict awkward moments and point to historical oversights about race, religion, and gender are of particular interest to me as they identify a conversation we are still in midst of in the twenty-first century.

Napping with Floyd, 2011 © Jennifer Greenburg | Archival Pigment Print, 27 x 27", Edition of 5, $3,500

The work is a performance that results in a series of photographs that appear as records of time, place, and circumstance, but that are photographic impersonations. I study the central character in order to understand and relate to the meaning of the captured photograph. I then replicate the emotion, manifesting it with my own body, and augment the moment.

I've always preferred my own birthday, 2013 © Jennifer Greenburg | Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 30",  Edition of 3, $3,500

I acknowledge that I create images that are a product of my bias, but I conclude that no photograph has ever been made without a bias. A photograph is a subtraction. It plucks one moment away from its context and appropriates that moment to suit an intended narrative. This is a cultural problem because we rely on photographs to tell us the truth. My end result, therefore, is no different from any other photograph: it is an expression made using the lens of personal experience. By pulling these images out of context, I cause the viewer to draw conclusions about how individuals have chosen to document their lives and how memory is forever altered by something sold to us by the photograph."

– Jennifer Greenburg

When they lifted me on to the piano, I had no choice but to oblidge, 2016 © Jennifer Greenburg | Archival Pigment Print,
24 x 30", Edition of 3, $3,500

----------------------------------------


For more information or to purchase prints, please contact the Gallery Staff at 505-988-5152 x 202 or gallery@photoeye.com 




Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper Forrest Soper selects Arktikugol by Léo Delafontaine as Book of the Week.
ArktikugolBy Léo DelafontaineEditions 77, 2017.
Forrest Soper selects Arktikugol by Léo Delafontaine from Editions 77 as Book of the Week.

"There are few photobooks that I have returned to as often as I have with Léo Delafontaine’s Arktikugol. This book focuses on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard and the Russian mines that operate there. Thanks to a provision in a 1920s treaty, which was ratified by the Russians in 1935, Russia has been able to operate coal mines here for many generations despite the fact that every single mine has operated at a loss. The mines have remained operational solely for geopolitical reasons. Today only one mine, in the settlement of Barentsburg, remains functional.

In Arktikugol, Delafontaine explores this region and the people that reside there. In a frozen land where polar bears outnumber humans two-to-one, miners and tourism workers alike live and work in a town that seems torn between many worlds. Ukrainians work for a Russian trust but answer to Norwegian law enforcement. Miners are paid in Rubles, in a town that only accepts kroner. Soviet architecture from earlier generations remains present in a region that is rapidly rejecting the stereotypical notions of ‘Russian Identities’ all while attempting to embrace tourism. Arktikugol presents the multifaceted complexities of this world in a striking and compelling fashion.

As a book, Arktikugol seems to have everything. From vernacular photographs, to personal interviews, to a facsimile mining safety pamphlet, Léo Delafontaine has created a body of work that is truly hard to put down. All of this is in addition to the stunning environmental portraits and other documentary images that fill this book. There is an air of a quiet stillness to his photographs that seem to simultaneously embody both loneliness and reflection. Arktikugol looks at how the world of geopolitics affects people on a local level, and how these effects can last many years and generations. Léo Delafontaine’s newest publication is a wonderful example of how contemporary documentary photography blends with fine art and should be celebrated to the highest degree." — Forrest Soper

Purchase Book

ArktikugolBy Léo DelafontaineEditions 77, 2017.
ArktikugolBy Léo DelafontaineEditions 77, 2017.



Forrest Soper is a photographer and artist based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A graduate of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, he also has previously worked at Bostick & Sullivan. Forrest is the Editor of photo-eye Blog.
http://forrestsoper.com/


Book Review Colette Urbajtel By Ralph Colette Urbajtel. Reviewed by Christopher J Johnson Urbajtel is a unique photographer with a sharp wit, unmistakably all her own, that is easy to miss in her photographs, which tend to present subtlety first, and humor second.

Colette Urbajtel. By Colette Urbajtel 
RM/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, 2016.
 
Colette Urbajtel
Reviewed by Christopher J Johnson

Colette Urbajtel.
Photographs by Colette Urbajtel.
RM/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Madrid, Spain, 2016. 92 pp., 52 color illustrations.

Colette Urbajtel, the French economist student who became the third wife of Manuel Alvarez Bravo and a Mexican photographer ‘in her own right,’ as the character-subsuming saying goes, is, I think, not served by the consorting of her name into Bravo’s.

Urbajtel is a unique photographer with a sharp wit, unmistakably all her own, that is easy to miss in her photographs, which tend to present subtlety first, and humor second.

Her photographs are something like the illustrations in Highlights Magazine where one has to look and look to see all the hidden objects within the picture; her wit is what I admire most about her photographs, but to say that all of her work is humorous would be misleading.

Colette Urbajtel. By Colette Urbajtel RM/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, 2016.

Perhaps she has two varieties of photographs, two subjects, which are more pervasive than her humor: still life and a sort of cultural daily life. Her still lifes can be humorous or not, but they tend to be experiments in prospective, a tchotchke is photographed among the leaves of a plant or within a shop window with laces and a price tag to give a sense of its relative size; something always betrays both the scale and, in conjunction to scale, the preciousness of the object photographed.

Colette Urbajtel. By Colette Urbajtel RM/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, 2016.

Her daily life photographs are a collection of cultural events, street photographs, and a sort of typography of murals, shop window designs and, as part of these works, surfaces and reflections.

Within her various subjects she further favors children, statuary and animals, but doesn’t exclusively focus on any of them; however, she is constantly bringing several of her themes into a single picture: daily life, children, animals and humor frequently inhabit her photographs harmoniously side by side, but she can also give us just one of these subjects, while restricting her others, to great effect.

Colette Urbajtel. By Colette Urbajtel RM/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, 2016.

The tonal quality of her photographs strengthens her work; images are diffuse with light, reminding one (as if environment and subject matter were not enough) that these pictures come from an equatorial place where the sun is always overhead; there is something of the late morning or early afternoon in almost all of her work — a strange clarity such as looking into an empty fish bowl in which the water has just been changed; even her photographs that contain movement have this dead-still, noon-like transparency.

Colette Urbajtel. By Colette Urbajtel RM/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, 2016.

Urbajtel’s work is amplified by a wonderfully brief and to-the-point pairing of two artist statements (provided in Spanish, English and French); one from 1970 and the other from 2015. In both, the sharpness of her mind is staggering and the clarity of her aim as a photographer appears unwavering in the 45-year gap between them. Speaking of the femininity of photography she says, “Consider, among its endlessly varied paraphernalia, the hollow cameras, the rounded lenses, the transparent and reflecting glass, the film that captures first a latent image. The work in the darkroom,” she goes on to say, “is a typically female process: first developing and then enlarging, like life itself unfolding.” The simple gracefulness of this statement aside, Urbajtel, tells us that photography is an art that lends itself to the female artist; rather than a process of willful creation, she uses the example of illustration; it is an attempt to capture and develop the world that is. There is no crashing in or forcing along, beauty is present and plentiful and only needs to be enveloped and nurtured; something photography is, of course, particularly adept at doing.

Colette Urbajtel. By Colette Urbajtel RM/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, 2016.

Colette Urbajtel is a much-needed book as it examines in-depth this largely under-represented photographer and provides an examination of work and, though brief, thought. Hopefully, we’ll see her take a more prominent place in the history of Mexican photography and get a few more publications dedicated to her wonderfully rich work. — Christopher J Johnson

Purchase Book

CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a resident writer for the Meow Wolf art collective. His first book of poetry, &luckier, has been released by the University of Colorado. He is Manager of photo-eye’s Book Division.

Read More Book Reviews

photo-eye Gallery Also On View: Maggie Taylor, Chaco Terada, and Maria Luisa Morando On April 28th photo-eye Gallery was delighted to open Warm Regards, an exhibition featuring recent work by seminal Finnish photographer Pentti Sammallahti. To compliment Pentti's rich traditional silver-gelatin prints, the gallery is also featuring color work by represented artists Maggie Taylor, Chaco Terada, and Maria Luisa Morando.


On April 28th photo-eye Gallery was delighted to open Warm Regards, an exhibition featuring recent and iconic works by seminal Finnish photographer Pentti Sammallahti. To compliment Pentti's rich traditional silver-gelatin prints, the gallery is also featuring color work by represented artists Maggie Taylor, Chaco Terada, and Maria Luisa Morando. While Sammallahti's precise yet whimsical style serves to document connections and eccentricities in the world around us Taylor, Terada, and Morando's imagery functions more internally focusing instead on the power of symbolic narrative, meditation, and minimalist dream-like contemplation to yield personal reflection.

Warm Regards and all accompanying works are on view through Saturday, June 24th, 2017 at photo-eye Gallery.

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper Forrest Soper selects Grinders by Hannes Wiedemann as Book of the Week.
GrindersBy Hannes WiedemannSelf-published, 2016.
Forrest Soper selects Grinders self-published by Hannes Wiedemann as Book of the Week.

"I’ve always been interested in biohacking. Ever since I picked up my first science fiction novel, the idea that technology and science can be used to augment humanity has fascinated me. As time progressed, many of the technologies detailed in the books and films that I loved have become a reality, however, many more still seem out of reach — fantasies rather than achievable goals. One seemingly impossible science was the idea of cybernetic enhancements, or using integrated technology to improve the capabilities of our human bodies. You can imagine the excitement I had when I learned that people were actively trying to incorporate technology into the human body.

Often called Grinders, individuals in the biohacking community believe that they can use technology to improve what it means to be human. From embedded computers that can read and transmit biometric data, to LED arrays under the skin that can visually change with different inputs, many pioneers are using themselves as test subjects as they begin to explore this new technology. Largely ignored by the established medical community, these innovators have been welcomed by the body modifiers, and as a result, have been able to work with professionals in order to implant these devices (albeit without anesthesia). Primarily self-funded and relatively off the grid, the biohacking community has grown into a diverse group of individuals who are actively implanting devices into their bodies for a multitude of different reasons.

Enter Hannes Wiedemann, a German photographer who, in 2015, set out to document the biohacking community in the United States. The images Wiedemann captured document this relatively new technology in a striking fashion. Set in garages and makeshift laboratories, the images in Grinders are detailed, depictive, alien, static, and often jarring. Strange devices, circuit panels, and bloody operations fill the pages. Implants of various sizes are shown being inserted into fingertips, heads, and arms. As you flip through the large pages, new questions arise as quickly as others are answered.

In addition to the striking imagery, Grinders is also a fascinating art object. Bound with eyelets and housed in a PVC sleeve, the book mimics the devices that biohackers design and work with. The third place winner of the 2017 Kassel Dummy Award, Grinders has already generated a lot of interest. So much interest in fact, that this book sold out from the publisher before this review was even published. If you are a fan of technology, science fiction, fringe communities, or if you are like me and have dreamt about an implant of your own then this book is for you. We may be a long way from cyborgs like we see in the movies, but thanks to the Grinders, we are closer than ever before."
— Forrest Soper

Purchase Book

GrindersBy Hannes WiedemannSelf-published, 2016.
GrindersBy Hannes WiedemannSelf-published, 2016.




Forrest Soper is a photographer and artist based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A graduate of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, he also has previously worked at Bostick & Sullivan. Forrest is the Editor of photo-eye Blog.
http://forrestsoper.com/


Book Review Lobismuller By Laia Abril Reviewed by JC Gonzo In Northern Spain, folklore goes that a female child born on the eve of Christmas or Good Friday, or who happens to be the 7th or 9th in a consecutive line of female children, is destined to be a lobismuller—or, werewolf.
Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017. 
 
Lobismuller
Reviewed by JC Gonzo

Lobismuller.
By Laia Abril.
RM, Madrid, Spain/Mexico, 2017. 192 pp., 107 illustrations, 7¾x10¾x½".  

In Northern Spain, folklore goes that a female child born on the eve of Christmas or Good Friday, or who happens to be the 7th or 9th in a consecutive line of female children, is destined to be a lobismuller—or, werewolf. Lobismuller is where Laia Abril draws the title and theme of this monographic study on Spain’s mysterious “wolven” serial killer, beginning with its very definition; though describing its male counterpart, a lobishome—immediately arousing contention within the gendering of this myth. Manuel Blanco Romasanta (born Manuela) is Spain’s first documented serial killer, active during the early mid-19th century in Galicia, he murdered at least 13 victims. Abril’s succession of images range from documented ephemera to stylized landscapes of the region in which Romasanta was active, making Lobismuller an unusual experience that shifts between a literal and metaphorical case study.

Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.
Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.

Noted for skill in “women’s work” (weaving, cooking, etc.), Romasanta was deemed effeminate by the men of his society. The ambiguity around Romasanta’s gender identity echoes his self-proclaimed werewolf curse, both an invisible identity. After undergoing a convulsive episode, he purportedly transformed and attacked his victims — women and children — and utilized their body fat to make soap. He would peddle their belongs and sell this human-derived soap in neighboring towns. Eventually arrested in 1852 and sentenced to execution the following year, Romasanta pleaded his werewolf affliction. Queen Isabella II pardoned him to allow doctors to investigate his supernatural condition, though nothing unusual was found. Much is left lingering in the mind after investigating the curious events that befell the famine-stricken societies of Galicia. What motivated him and why? What degree of insanity informed these murders?

Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.

Abril’s creative liberties with these events manifest in the arrangement of text, images, and the manipulation of the book itself. She unfolds this story carefully, eventually breaking past its journalistic structure into a realm of post-photography; suggestively melding images with illustrations and historical texts. Crumbling facades, roaming livestock, and quaint horizons become increasingly disjointed by graphic stylings or by reproduced ephemera presented as inserts. When the body itself appears, it is often too amorphous to identify with. The visceral nature of Abril’s imagery both intensifies and accelerates in a narrative arc as each seemingly innocuous image gets colored by the morbid information provided in the pages prior. Perception itself becomes aware to the viewer while intaking Abril’s unique perspective on the Romasanta legend and Lycanthrope mythos. She ultimately presents intersexuality, recalling Romasanta’s differing gendering at birth.

Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.
Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.

Lobismuller is an uneasy investigation. It fulfills the fear and paranoia associated with the werewolf mythology itself, more concerned with dis-identity and otherness than the violent crimes committed. Sexuality and gender as elements governed by an imposed social order leaves little to no space for deviation, a basic concept as prevalent in today’s society as it was in 19th century Galicia. It brings Abril’s well-crafted reconstruction of this legend right into the present conversation of sexual politics and the stigma of not abiding by the gender binary. — JC Gonzo

Purchase Book

JC GONZO  is an artist and writer from El Paso, Texas. He currently writes for Sensitive Skin Magazine, and has written for White Fungus, L_A_N, and held an art column in the Berlin-based porn site Dandy Dicks. He works both as a solo artist and as a collaborator in the Third-Mind concept, The Product Division. He earned his self-designed BA in ‘Sexual Liberation As Art’ at the College of Santa Fe in 2011 and is currently based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Read more book reviews

photo-eye Gallery New Work: CIG HARVEY photo-eye Gallery is delighted to share a selection of new color images by Cig Harvey. This collection of photographs can be found in Harvey's highly anticipated monograph titled You an Orchestra You a Bomb from Schilt Publishing, scheduled to release at the end of 2017.

Scout & The Clementines, 2015 © Cig Harvey | C-Print, 14 x 14", Ed. of 10, $2,500

photo-eye Gallery is delighted to share a selection of new color images by Cig Harvey. This collection of photographs can be found in Harvey's highly anticipated monograph titled You an Orchestra You a Bomb from Schilt Publishing, scheduled to release at the end of 2017. The third installment from Harvey, these works are magical as ever, but with perhaps a slightly darker undertone. Each moment feels precious and fleeting, both like the past and the unforeseen future. The rich images evoke a certain sound or rather a current, passing through you as you view them. A splash of water, a crackling sparkler, the howling blizzard and booming bonfire are just a few of the sounds in Harvey's stage, or in this case Orchestra.

You an Orchestra You a Bomb looks at my relationship with life itself. It is work about the future, about paying attention to the fragile present. It makes icons of the everyday and looks at life on the threshold between magic and disaster.  
- Cig Harvey

Scout in the Blizzard, 2017 © Cig Harvey | C-Print, 14 x 14", Ed. of 10, $2,500

Lake Megunticook, 2016 © Cig Harvey | C-Print, 14 x 14", Ed. of 10, $2,500


Sparks, 2016 © Cig Harvey | C-Print, 14 x 14", Ed. of 10, $2,500


The Fire, 2015 © Cig Harvey | C-Print, 14 x 14", Ed. of 10, $2,500

Cig Harvey's photographs are Chromogenic Prints, or can be made to order as a Dye Sublimation Print on Aluminum in the following sizes:

14 x 14 inches, edition of 10, starting at $2,500

28 x 28 inches, edition of 7, starting at $4,500

40 x 40 inches, edition of 5, starting at $8,000

For more information on prints, or to pre-order your signed copy of You an Orchestra, You a Bomb please contact the Gallery Staff at: 505-988-5152 x 202 or gallery@photoeye.com 

----------------------------------------






View You an Orchestra You a Bomb

See Harvey's Handmade Artist Books

Read Savannah Sakry's Interview with Cig 

Pre-Order Monograph



Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Christopher J Johnson Christopher J Johnson selects Photo Concepts 1970 ---> by Hans Eijkelboom as Book of the Week.
Photo Concepts ---> 1970By Hans Eijkelboom. Snoeck, 2017.
Christopher J Johnson selects Photo Concepts 1970 ---> by Hans Eijkelboom from Snoeck as Book of the Week.


Book Review Contains 3 Books By Jason Fulford Reviewed by Sarah Bay Gachot Contains: 3 Books could be a drawer full of madness, but it is much more fun — and fitting, considering the vividly luminous imagination of Fulford — to embrace it as the visual ramblings, journal, and research of the sane mystic.
Contains 3 Books. By Jason Fulford. 
The Soon Institute, 2016.
Contains 3 Books
Reviewed by Sarah Bay Gachot

Contains 3 Books.
Photographs by Jason Fulford. Edited by Lorenzo De Rita.
The Soon Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2016. 216 pp., 88 color illustrations, 5¼x7¼".

Mild Moderate Severe Profound is one of the three small books tucked into the silver slipcase drawer of Contains: 3 Books, by Jason Fulford, his latest collection of photographs and text. Paging through, I paused on one of the captions across from an image of Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grave, a close-up corner of it, silhouetted by the sun just out of frame; there are airplane-sized liquor bottles straggled about, and an empty vase (save for some dead leaves) catches a tiny glint of a sunset on its rim, some wine bottles hold more dead flowers, coins tossed about, other gifted mementoes...

20. Save Me the Waltz
In a letter to Zelda Sayre’s doctor, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that he would rather her be a sane mystic than a mad realist. She had been diagnosed with schizophrenia
This is just one of several references to madness and aberrance throughout Contains: 3 Books — the title Mild Moderate Severe Profound, the common terminology for addressing levels of intellectual disorder, being one of them. Further photographs allude to institutionalization — the psychiatric file of Robert Walser, who spent much of the latter part of his life in a sanatorium, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s modernist bust of Ezra Pound, who was incarcerated in an insane asylum for 12 years, Vincent Van Gogh’s view from his room in an asylum — as well as views that reference institutions themselves such as the Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia, and Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Contains 3 Books. By Jason Fulford. The Soon Institute, 2016.

The two other books in Contains: 3 Books are titled I Am Napoleon and &&. These are accompanied by a letter-pressed mustard-hued board displaying an alphabet festooned with raucous and randy characters reminiscent of R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, or the viral doodle of the WWII-era “Kilroy Was Here.” Contains: 3 Books could be a drawer full of madness, but it is much more fun — and fitting, considering the vividly luminous imagination of Fulford — to embrace it as the visual ramblings, journal, and research of the sane mystic.

Contains 3 Books. By Jason Fulford. The Soon Institute, 2016.

This is a project with rules that guide in the most unruly way. I Am Napoleon seems to pair texts taken in their original fonts with original page numbers with Fulford’s photographs, noted in the colophon by those numbers. The first text is Roman numeral V, an excerpt from the preface to The Inmates by John Cowper Powys, a fictional love story told in an insane asylum:
PREFATORY NOTE
I think any book or picture or composition of any sort, once out into the world, so to say, produces a different effect on each person who seriously tries to follow it. I certainly do not think that the author of it has any monopoly on its interpretation.
Across from this is what I took to be a sopping-wet, green-haired guinea pig on a beach. Actually, it’s a seaweed-swathed rock embedded in sand — but if you look at it in a half light, it really could be the head of a corpse, buried and revealed by the sea. From guinea pig to corpse in less than a minute.

Contains 3 Books. By Jason Fulford. The Soon Institute, 2016.

Fulford explains the title I Am Napoleon on the last page by way of an asterisked note credited to the “acid Marxist” of psychiatrists, R.D. Laing, in which a patient undergoing a lie-detector test results in lying when he responds “no” to the question “Are you Napoleon?” Subtle paradox runs through Contains: 3 Books like madness itself — seemingly normal until it isn’t; seemingly mystic, until one digs. But Fulford seems to have a magnetic ability to attract just the amount of madness needed to make art.

Contains 3 Books. By Jason Fulford. The Soon Institute, 2016.

Despite its genesis in heavy research, three years of travel to 15 countries (Fulford was awarded a Guggenheim grant in 2014), and a weighty theme, Contains: 3 Books has a lightness to it — shiny silver slipcase, photos that one can’t help smiling at, like a broken ceramic duck next to a cigarette butt, a reference to Mel Brooks’s High Anxiety, a topiary branding of a barber shop in Scranton, and even the tongue-in-cheek letterpress handwriting listing book titles on the cover of && — “The Tower & The Abyss / Agony & Epitaph / Feminism & Psychoanalysis / Trust & Violence / Surfaces & Essences / Symbolization & Creativity...” It goes on — a procession of titles that seems to poke fun at the endless academic study of the mind.

Contains 3 Books. By Jason Fulford. The Soon Institute, 2016.

As this project came to print in 2016, the most unusual election year to date (to say the least), an exploration of madness is an apt response to the fractured condition of politics and society in the United States. “I don’t know what to do / two states of mind in me,” Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, faces a photograph of a blue van tucked into a garage, protected by a hanging tarp and a traffic cone. Contains: 3 Books is ultimately a collection of pithy stories that touch upon the mind, accompanied by Fulford’s graphic or curiously comic photographs, stories in their own right. Dig as deep as you want — the reflection is yours to consider. — Sarah Bay Gachot


SARAH BAY GACHOT  is a writer, educator, and artist who lives in Los Angeles, California. She is the editor and author of Robert Cumming: The Difficulties of Nonsense (Aperture, 2016) and will be curating a show of Cumming’s photographs at the George Eastman Museum in 2017. Lylesfur.tumblr.com

Read More Book Reviews