Critics’ Picks

View of “Lauren Edwards,” 2013.

View of “Lauren Edwards,” 2013.

Chicago

Lauren Edwards

ANDREW RAFACZ
1749 West Chicago Ave
November 16, 2013–January 18, 2014

For her first solo exhibition in Chicago, Lauren Edwards has staged a subtle sculptural onslaught of photography’s indexical claims to reality. In so doing the artist scrambles our ontological categories of sculpture and photography with equal pith. By creating a sculpture installation that has the veneer of a contemporary photographic display, replete with all the tropes of the documentary and the fictive, the artist punctures the pretense of the oft-trodden discourse surrounding notions of reality construction. The two black-and-white photographs that make up The Baker and Apprentices (all works 2013) show women dressed in medieval garb making bread, themselves signaling a critique of photography’s (and even history’s) ability to present the past with an alluring aura. These are juxtaposed with two color photographs, Berlin, New England I and Berlin, New England II, which depict generic landscapes that are deliberately hard to place and made more inscrutable through their titles. Together these four photographs, which were originally sourced from the Internet, function somewhat like red herrings that simultaneously thematize the conceptual muddiness that can occur between photography’s evidentiary function and it’s ability to tell stories.

If, on the one hand, our conception of photography is thrown into deep disarray by the ever-growing pervasiveness of digital images and, on the other, sculpture’s ability to assert its resolute thingness, then it is through the gaps in the conventions of photographic display where this show really hits its stride. As one looks closely at the exhibition, it becomes apparent that the gallery walls double as photographic mats and the false walls that jut out reveal their construction and the way frames are hinged and floated. In “In the Turn,” it is these short-circuited display mechanisms that constitute a kind of sculptural facticity. Subtle, to be sure, these moments nevertheless reveal Edwards’s authorial gambit, which implies that in any construction of reality it is through the cracks where the real seeps in.