Critics’ Picks

Annette Kelm, Archeology and Photography, 2008, color photograph mounted on Alu-Dibond, 27 1/2 x 33 3/4".


Annette Kelm

Camera Austria
Lendkai 1
July 10–September 13

By installing older pieces amid new works in her exhibitions, Annette Kelm creates a subtle and precise relationship that augments the sophisticated ambivalence of her photographs. In this solo show, Kelm’s first in Austria, her sober and clear approach is evident in the way she structures her meticulously calculated pieces. One work, Archeology and Photography, 2008, is a good example of this method. Here Kelm captures two antiquarian books on photography theory (one gives the piece its title) and two large, contorted white zucchini. The zucchini are displayed in front of the books and on a sheet of green fabric with a flowered pattern, thus creating an odd, enigmatic, and absurd contextualization for the work as a whole. The pattern itself makes the image seem extremely flat and allows the literary still life with vegetables to nearly dissolve into ornament.

Kelm succeeds in augmenting this ornamental objectivity in the series “Big Prints,” 2007. These pictures of large strips of fabric designed by Dorothy Draper are presented in a direct and frontal manner. Nevertheless, the fabric itself fades almost to invisibility because of the prominence of the pattern. A semantic puzzle emerges, in which the object of the image, the fabric, and the photograph seem to switch places.

The three-part series “Stars Look Back,” 2006, also offers a fabric backdrop––a rectilinear grid pattern––set behind a Hawaiian bamboo version of a classic Bauhaus table, which is placed at an angle and thus seems to intersect with its shadow. Kelm’s interest in this object is based on its character as a manifestation of a cultural clash and its continuing level of exoticism. But a slight blurriness and peculiar spots of light in the work constitute further clues in this series: These are color photographs of black-and-white Polaroids (the kind usually taken in a studio to determine correct lighting), a fact that incorporates a second stratum of meaning into the images, one insolubly associated with the depicted object.

Translated from German by Jane Brodie.