New York

Gerard Marx

Bertha Urdang Gallery

Gerard Marx calls his works “photo-constructs.” Formerly, these consisted of a beam or plank set on a photo-sensitive sheet of linen or masonite; this was then exposed to produce a white image, which of course bore a one-to-one relation to the wood. To complete the work, the sheet was tacked on the wall with the wood placed next to it. The technique of the new constructs is the same, save for one important thing: the image is no longer made by contact with the wood. A piece of cardboard, related in form to the piece of wood, now lays out the image. The work is still about opposition—positive versus negative, real versus illusory, objects versus spaces—but now, given the incongruity of the image and the wood, the opposition is more complex.

No longer a direct outline of the wood, the image seems a projection or extension of the wood. More often than not, it controls the relation of the two; indeed, in a few of the works, it is as if the wood were an image of the image (inasmuch as the smaller thing seems to be the one derived), as if it fell from the more abstract space of the image into our space, where it condensed into concretion. So, though the wood is of course more real than the image and is, in one way or another, the original of the image, the image often seems to precede the wood, a tendency of images in general. Image and wood, like shadow and substance or energy and mass, are not opposed absolutely: the image partakes of the reality of the wood, as the wood partakes of the abstraction of the image. Paradoxically, the image often reads more clearly in our space than the wood does; in fact, it often seems to extend both in front of and behind the surface of the sheet. One has an impulse to take up the wood—not to lay it on the image (it would never be flush with it), but to line it up with the image to connect the space behind and the space in front. In any case, the viewer is unsure how to orient himself to the work; it is hard to locate just where the relation of image and wood occurs: on the surface, in our space, or in the illusory space.

Oddly, the wood both introduces and obstructs the image, to which it is at once interior and exterior. The wood is then like a displaced support or frame for the image; to read the work in this way is to come close to the kind of relation the wood and the image have. It is both an equation or a metaphorical relation, in which one replaces the other (the illusory image for the real wood), and a proportion or a part-to-whole relation, in which they are connected (the image as the shadow of the wood or the wood as a segment of the image). The wood and the image are thus both separate and contiguous. Somehow, they seem to lack a third term, and if one thinks about it too hard, the work comes to be about that third term—about a lack. The relation of wood and image ends as a deprivation.

Hal Foster