Critics’ Picks

Arthur Ou, Uta Barth Reading 4.015: The Possibility of All Imagery, of All Our Pictorial Modes of Expression, Is Contained in the Logic of Depiction, 2015, selenium-toned gelatin print, 7 x 9".

New York

Arthur Ou

Brennan & Griffin
122 Norfolk Street
April 12–May 24

For his second solo exhibition at this gallery, Arthur Ou took fourteen portraits of artists who work primarily within the realm of the photographic—people such as Uta Barth, James Welling, and Moyra Davey—reading parts of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s famous treatise on the limits of perception and language, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, in settings both public and domestic all over the world. Also on view are two R. M. Schindler–inspired chairs on which viewers are encouraged to dally and pore over pocket-size volumes of Wittgenstein’s book, republished in three variations—World, Picture, and Fact—where instances of these three words in the text have been replaced by the artist with the word photograph.

There is a nineteenth-century strain of quiet in this suite of small black-and-white images by Ou. It is a temperament that seems to honor interiority, solitude, and a sort of tender pictorial loveliness—qualities that run counter to the extroverted supergraphic shininess of much contemporary photography. The artist doesn’t seem persuaded by the idea that Photoshop has killed the photograph, either. On the contrary, his exquisitely produced gelatin silver prints seem to announce that analogue photographs, as documents of representation, intention, technology, and time, are more intractable and mysterious than ever, and have a power far stranger than any digitally over-manipulated mutation floating across a screen. Ou’s modest works are as subjectively and materially rich as paintings, a medium we once foolishly thought died from modernity, too.