Critics’ Picks

Penelope Umbrico, Everyone’s Photos Any License (654 of 1,146,034 Full Moons on Flickr, November 2015), 2015, digital C-prints with attributions and image map, 8' 8'' x 27'.

New York

Penelope Umbrico

Bruce Silverstein Gallery
529 West 20th Street Third Floor
January 7–February 20, 2016

Fifteen archival prints of photographs of sunlight streaming into Grand Central Station, watermarked with their sources—sites such as, Easy Art,—greet visitors to Penelope Umbrico’s latest exhibition, playfully drawing attention to her process of appropriation while offering the prosaic material a more profound afterlife. Adjacent is a video of all the variations of the four source photographs of Grand Central that Umbrico found online, demonstrating slight differences in contrast and graininess. Interested in the way images circulate and are valued, Umbrico previously culled photographs of sunsets from Flickr and TVs for sale from Craigslist, transforming them into meditations on our relationship with file sharing and originality.

In addition to her Grand Central project, Umbrico offers photographs of the moon. For her installation Everyone’s Photos Any License (654 of 1,146,034 Full Moons on Flickr, November 2015) (all works 2015), Umbrico printed approximately six hundred of the million-plus images she found on the site and then taped them together to cover a wall of the gallery. The moons range in size and color from cloudy green to fiery red to grayish white, and the fact that many are nearly identical destabilizes their tenuous link to authorship. Umbrico further contests their singular status in works like Screenshot 2015-11-07 18.34.11 / Pink Filter and Screenshot 2015-11-24 18.14.32 / Blue Filter by arranging the images chromatically, yielding grids of pinkish-orange or white-ish blue moons, which almost become abstract motifs. Emphasizing the collective nature of this archive, Umbrico includes a scroll of screenshots of the moon, rolled out lengthwise on the gallery floor. Its discarded, sculptural presence contrasts with her loftier presentations of the full moons, revealing both the ubiquity and elusiveness of her subject.