new-york

Richard Artschwager

Julie Saul Gallery

In Richard Artschwager’s photographs, ordinary materials become psychotic: the grim, intricate surfaces of pseudo-organic substances such as wood-grain Formica or of such natural materials as malachite appear peculiarly unstable. In these images, things seem about to dissolve, even as they maintain their precision: they are subject to invasive inspection, though kept at a safe, “fictional” distance. The photographer can be thought of not simply as a master of ironic illusions, but as a kind of surgeon, particularly when, like Artschwager, he works not only in black and white but in seemingly infinite gradations of gray, suggesting a nuanced yet cold-blooded observation.

The photograph, then, is the ideal instrument for conveying modernity’s generic model of vision: the simultaneous assertion of perceptual veracity and suggestion that the image in question is slippery, even unreal. That

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