On view now at Kavi Gupta in Chicago is everything after, Curtis Mann’s first U.S. exhibition since his inclusion in the 2010 Whitney Biennial. For this exhibition, Mann presents a selection of new works, including large chemically altered mural grids, panoramic landscapes and haunting distorted figures.
In Mann’s most recent works, found photographs of conflicted and historically complex places throughout the Middle East are subjected to a process of selection and erasure. By painting on portions of enlarged color photographs with a clear varnish and then bleaching away unprotected portions of the image, new and abstract meanings are sought from appropriated snapshots, travel photographs, and casual documentations. The photograph is physically and contextually altered; as a result, the work oscillates between image and object, photography and painting, real and imagined.
Exemplifying this approach best perhaps within this exhibition is the work new hole (sky). Installed apart from the main gallery of works, it is a modestly sized C-print by comparison to the included mural grids. In it, a starfield above the illuminated horizon is interrupted by a fireball, or possibly wormhole, that has been introduced into the landscape via Mann’s painterly chemical alteration.
In a recent interview Mann states, “I am constantly trying to force these found images to function outside of their initial utility and use photography’s inherent, malleable nature as a way of coming to an ulterior understanding of the complex and the unfamiliar. Coming from a mechanical engineering background, I have always been curious about the paper, the chemicals and the inks used to produce photographic images. They are the birth of the image and their manipulation holds a lot of potential for disrupting the powers of the flat, conventional image.”
Curtis Mann was born in 1979 in Dayton, Ohio, he lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. Recent exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial 2010, curated by Francesco Bonami, something after, Galerie Almine Rech, Brussels, Altered Sates, Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art Kansas City, MO and New Artists/New Work, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.