Critics’ Picks

Jessica Labatte, Linear Flexing, 2010, color photograph,
 22 x 16”.


Jessica Labatte

Golden Gallery, Inc. | Chicago
3319 N. Broadway
April 30–June 12, 2010

Jessica Labatte’s photographs thrive in the shadowy realm of paradox. Her precisely cluttered arrangements of objects––Styrofoam food packages, rubber balls, rolls of masking tape (along with the occasional head of lettuce or loaf of bread)––cunningly exploit the medium’s ability to flatten contours, collapse multiple visual planes, and confuse reality with its reflection. In Labatte’s large-scale photograph The Alignment (all works 2010), fragmentary views of an air filter, a round plastic bowl, a green ball, and wrinkled sheets of paper appear as if suspended in a void. It’s hard to tell whether we’re looking at an object, an image, a reflection, or some combination of the three. Usually, the artist offers subtle clues in the form of a curled edge of paper or a sliver of shadow that distinguishes ground from backdrop. In this work, all the objects are two-dimensional images placed at various heights and angles within a darkened setting. The illusion itself depicts illusion.

Set against a bright white backdrop, Linear Flexing shows three white cubes and three smaller yellow cubes placed in triangular relationships to one another. Three thin red cocktail straws act as vectors between the objects, while a small bit of plastic placed on two of the white cubes simulates the effect of shadow or of melting water. Like all of Labatte’s photographs, the work seems to reside in a space between two and three dimensions, where things are what they are but are still not quite what they seem.