Critics’ Picks

Jessica Labatte, Spotting #11 (Elyse, Jessica), 2014, ink-jet color photograph, frame, 51 x 40".

Jessica Labatte, Spotting #11 (Elyse, Jessica), 2014, ink-jet color photograph, frame, 51 x 40".


Jessica Labatte

Western Exhibitions
1709 W Chicago Second Floor
March 13–April 25, 2015

The poet Joseph Brodsky wrote, “Dust is the flesh of time. / Time’s very flesh and blood.” In her first solo exhibition with this gallery Jessica Labatte gives ebullient expression to the passage of time. While dust is the bane of the fastidious and the enemy of the traditional photographer, marring efforts towards crystalline imagery, Labatte takes up dust as her subject matter, in photographs that are deeply in conversation with Abstract Expressionist painting. That particular genre is in many respects the polar opposite of uptight perfection, with its canvases rumpled and littered by everything from cigarette butts to charcoal to sand—all of which would be anathema to the clean lens and the pristine print—yet here Labatte slyly rearticulates the painterly gestures in an ecstatic series of photographic prints titled “Spotting,” 2014.

Evoking the paintings of Mark Tobey and the later works of Jean Dubuffet, these pieces achieve a kind of release from consciousness that those painters sought, albeit by very different means. The images are composed through the meticulous activity of cleaning up an image in Photoshop, commonly referred to as spotting. In a blurring of authorship, Labatte creates these images with her assistants and includes their first names parenthetically in the individual photographs’ titles. Together, they composed pictures by an accretion of digital erasures, most notably in Spotting #11 (Elyse, Jessica), 2014. If the process sounds complicated to understand, that’s because it is, though the end results aren’t. The photographs are visually generous and are marked by blasts of color that register the living quality of time itself.