Owen Kydd, The Boss, 2015, self-adhesive digital print, 64 × 95".

Owen Kydd, The Boss, 2015, self-adhesive digital print, 64 × 95".

Owen Kydd

Owen Kydd, The Boss, 2015, self-adhesive digital print, 64 × 95".

At what point does a picture cease to be one? Owen Kydd previously pondered this question through works he describes as durational photographs, which utilize extended single-shot video recordings to present static pictures of unmoving objects. The selection of new works on view here, however, marked a significant turn toward large-scale photography; the most salient feature of these works is that of their having been printed on adhesive-backed mural paper. These new works prompted a separate question: What is the point at which a depiction loses coherence?

Destiny and Gabriel (all works 2015) makes use of adhesive to pre-sent its composition in an unconventional manner. The black-and-white photograph depicts a woman walking toward a man sitting on a blanket under the canopy of a tree. But by wrapping the print around a convex corner of the gallery wall, Kydd obscured what would otherwise have been the photograph’s fulcrum: the figure of Destiny in the foreground. Architecture here became an impediment to visibility by folding the picture plane. Meanwhile, the adhesive color print The Boss pushes its pictorial limits in postproduction. In this staged picture of two men, the eponymous subject wears nice leather shoes and a jaunty newsboy cap, while the laborer to whom he is talking wears sneakers and a sleeveless shirt, and holds a vape in his right hand—a commonplace sight. The work’s subject is seemingly the dynamic between a superior and his subordinate. Yet Kydd complicates what would otherwise appear to be a “straight” photograph by distorting the second figure: He has sutured two different frames (taken in close succession) in Photoshop, causing the image of the second man to break down, resulting in a “frozen” appearance similar to that generated by a bad connection on a streamed video chat.

These large-scale, seemingly pedestrian depictions both recall and depart from those of Jeff Wall, in whose studio Kydd once worked. Kydd addresses his debt to Wall explicitly, remixing motifs from the senior artist’s oeuvre while pursuing his own investigations within the format of video recording. In addition to the two photographs, the show included two videos, Split Ring and Diptych, as well as the mixed-media Moth (the third adhesive work of the trio on view), which includes a video element. Unlike the earlier durational photographs, all of these videos explicitly involve movement. The most cryptic of the works on view, Moth consists of a monitor mounted atop an adhesive digital print. A photograph of the eponymous insect has been digitally mapped onto a wire frame to produce an animation that reveals in slow motion the beating of the creature’s wings, which would otherwise be undetectable to the human eye; the process is the inverse of the animation technique Eadweard Muybridge employed in his Horse in Motion of 1878, but yields similar results. The large-scale photograph behind the monitor, which depicts a young white man in a gray hooded sweatshirt looking down, is compositionally reminiscent of Wall’s Young Man Wet with Rain, 2011 (down to the figure’s shadow, which stretches along the asphalt ground before bending to extend up the cement wall behind him). In Kydd’s photograph, the subject’s hands are in his pockets, and his blue jeans are speckled with white paint, suggesting either the labor of construction work or (more likely) that of artmaking. The delicacy of the moth’s wings, which are rendered in blue and white, complement the image’s muted blues and grays, while the juxtaposition of moving image and static picture expounds on Kydd’s questioning of the limits of pictorial depiction. In contrast to Moth’s relative restraint, the adjacent video work Diptych shows a banana in slow motion crashing into a wave of milk. Innuendo aside, it is also a cheeky wink at Wall’s Milk of 1984, an iconic work in which he explored the line between movement and stasis in photography.

Kydd employs contemporary technologies to expand the boundaries of pictorial depiction while representing quotidian images of North American life in the early twenty-first century, capturing the specific details that signal the time in which we live. After all, what contemporary object encapsulates the present moment better than the vape?

Aaron Peck