Critics’ Picks

Ernst Fischer, Lead 3, 2014, archival pigment print, 56 1/2 x 86".

Ernst Fischer, Lead 3, 2014, archival pigment print, 56 1/2 x 86".

New York

Ernst Fischer

CUE Art Foundation
137 W 25th Street Ground Floor
February 7–March 14, 2015

While Hito Steyerl defends the poor image, Ernst Fischer explores the other end of the spectrum, namely, what happens when you overwhelm a photograph with information? Here, the endeavor results in the creation of phantasmagoric landscapes reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich or Francisco Goya. Titled “18%” after the middle gray to which all color film is calibrated, Fischer’s exhibition explores the digital sublime through elaborate technical maneuvers.

For these works, the Swiss-born artist built a microphotographic rig that takes hundreds of close-ups of minerals and the light reflecting off them. The digital photographs are then inputted into software that often fails to process the amount of information in them, resulting in glitched images evoking postapocalyptic scenes. Two particularly arresting works from this group are Lead 3, 2014, and Zinc 1, 2013, both daunting by virtue of their scale and subject matter. The former hangs alone in the back of the gallery and features dark colors portraying angry skies and the top of a cliff, making the viewer feel as if on a precipice. The latter recalls pictures of outer space, with the mineral photographed here resembling the surface of a comet covered in ice.

The show concludes with a peculiar sculpture titled Mirror, 2015, consisting of an Ergoline tanning bed that hangs from the ceiling. Painted gray—perhaps as a way to tie the show back to its title—it bears an eerie resemblance to a piece of damaged 35-mm film. It stands in the room like a war monument, as if memorializing the disappearing analog world.