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#EVIDENCE: Anouk Kruithof at Casemore Kirkeby

#EVIDENCE, the current solo exhibition by Dutch-born, Mexico City–based artist Anouk Kruithof at Casemore Kirkeby Gallery, presents a sprawling series of related bodies of work inspired by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s 1977 book, Evidence. Kruithof’s range of photo-based works, made mostly in 2015, do not replicate or repeat Sultan and Mandel’s project, but rather carry it forward through strategies that are carefully calculated to resonate with today’s imaging landscape—a markedly different photographic terrain from the one Mandel and Sultan responded to forty years ago.[1]

Anouk Kruithof. #EVIDENCE; 2017. Exhibition installation. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

Anouk Kruithof. #EVIDENCE; 2017, installation view. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

Similarly to Sultan and Mandel, Kruithof has gathered images from various governmental agencies and private institutions—though in this case, directly from their Instagram feeds—and has taken this glut of self-promotional images and altered and manipulated them to create artworks that are as much about what is hidden as what is shown. The resulting bodies of work succeed to varying degrees, and collectively trace a trajectory that evolves from Sultan and Mandel’s original photomontage-based technique into new two- and three-dimensional photographic manipulations. Taken as a whole, the exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse into Kruithof’s fluid artistic practice, and suggests a contemporary relationship to images that is more subjective, idiosyncratic, and opaque than ever before.

Kruithof’s largest body of work in #EVIDENCE is her Screenshot Montages, twenty-eight of which are displayed in a long, 14-by-2-foot grid in a smaller back gallery. These works are rephotographed collages that Kruithof made by cutting up hundreds of printed Instagram screenshots. There are moments in the psychedelic mash-ups that are alluring, and could be psychologically impactful given focused consideration, but in this a densely hung grid of works, the stronger moments are overwhelmed by the surrounding riot. This blinding sensory overload is itself interesting, but the two aspects—micro and macro—fight each other in a way that is not entirely satisfying. That said, there is something fascinating about these pieces when viewed as the sketches and preparatory manipulations that led to the works exhibited in the main gallery.

Anouk Kruithof. Screenshot Montages, 2015; archival inkjet prints, 11 x 11 inches each. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

Anouk Kruithof. Screenshot Montages, 2015; archival inkjet prints; 11 x 11 in. each. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

In these other works, Kruithof’s decisions about what to include and what to omit exhibit a subtle intelligence. Many of these pieces are also photo collages, but rather than operating through the typical additive logic of montage and collage, they deftly use redaction, omission, distortion, and accumulation to generate meaning through absence. For instance, Rainbow Strategies contains the only five rainbows Kruithof could find in all of the Instagram images she processed, strung together end to end with their source backgrounds digitally erased. The small black rectangles sprinkled across the diptych This Pic Is Sick once protected the identities of military personnel, but now float detached in empty space. The confiscated handguns that once filled the composite tapestry of images in Carry On have all been removed, but their crude, filled-in contours are still clearly visible. These displacements focus attention on acts of interference, and the way these interferences themselves become content.

Anouk Kruithof. Top: This Pic is Sick, diptych, 2015; archival pigment prints, 14.5 x 28 inches each. Bottom: Rainbow Strategies, 2015; archival pigment print, 22 x 51.5 x 2.5 inches. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

Anouk Kruithof. Top: This Pic Is Sick, 2015; diptych, archival pigment prints; 14.5 x 28 in. each. Bottom: Rainbow Strategies, 2015; archival pigment print; 22 x 51.5 x 2.5 in. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

A pair of works, Another Universe and Sorry, No Definitions Found, push photographic accumulation to sculptural ends. Their bulky, bloblike bodies, highly reminiscent of Franz West’s sculptures, are clad in resin-coated papier-mâché made from masses of overlapping printed images. In Another Universe, the images are celestial shots from NASA, which when stuck together create a contiguous, lumpy, miniature universe that, unlike our own, can be seen in its entirety, and from the outside. In Sorry, No Definitions Found, the same technique is used to stick together images documenting high-tech curiosities. The images have been adhered to the surface face-down and made only partially visible by being sprayed with hairspray, which has caused the images to bleed through their substrate. The distorted bits of each image that surface through the layers merge with wet, unintelligible swaths of pigment to form a tangled confusion of shape and color that holds little—if any—intelligible meaning. Both sculptures are built around selfie sticks whose thin protruding ends are cast into blocks of concrete. Somehow, both of these works, though very different, manage to at once be funny and sad, hulking and ridiculous.

Anouk Kruithof. Concealed Matter(s) #07, 2017; surveillance camera bracket arm, flatbed print on latex, 30 x 6 x 8 inches. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

Anouk Kruithof. Concealed Matter(s) #07, 2017; surveillance camera bracket arm, flatbed print on latex; 30 x 6 x 8 in. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

Most of the remaining works in the exhibition are from two related bodies of work that Kruithof has titled Neutrals and Concealed Matter(s). Both use a peculiar type of image that Kruithof discovered during her research: TSA documents of confiscated weapons, some of which include the blurred-out identification cards of the individuals whose weapons were seized. The software used to blur the ID cards distorts the subjects into a smear of color in which race and sex are indistinguishable. In the two Concealed Matter(s) works, Kruithof has enlarged individual blurred ID images onto thin sheets of latex, and draped them like translucent towels over metal security camera mounts protruding from the wall. In her more numerous Neutrals, Kruithof has printed blurred ID images onto latex as well as clear vinyl, plastic, and PVC fabric, and has hung and propped these amorphous expanses of color amit an array of mysterious metal supports.

While there is something conceptually alluring about the clear logic of the security camera mounts in the Concealed Matter(s) pieces, the end result is far less interesting than the effects Kruithof achieves with the more curious supports in the Neutrals work. Their form and energy—though photographically rooted—resonates with a wide range of international sculpture and painting practices, and finds interesting local resonance with Liam Everett’s “paintings” from a handful of years ago, Lana Williams’ sculptural constructions, and Cybele Lyle’s similarly hybrid photo-sculptures.

Anouk Kruithof. Neutral (openhearted), 2015; graphite gray metal construction, flatbed print on vinyl and black rubber band, 70 x 48.5 x 12 inches. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

Anouk Kruithof. Neutral (Openhearted), 2015; graphite gray metal construction, flatbed print on vinyl and black rubber band; 70 x 48.5 x 12 in. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby.

One of the best things about Kruithof’s Neutrals is that the works require no framing information to be satisfyingly rich. I suspect Kruithof knows these pieces are her most successful, and this is perhaps why she decided to construct three new ones while installing #EVIDENCE. Though none of these newly finished pieces are physically included in the show, they are directly connected to Neutral (Restless)—which is shown—and they are included in the press images as an extension and continuation of the work that is on display. Like all of Kruithof’s works, these subtle pieces exhibit a highly subjective relationship to photography in which images can be selectively deployed or combined with non-photographic materials to create idiosyncratic entities whose forms and gestures, like our own identities, remain open to future change.

#EVIDENCE is on view at Casemore Kirkeby through March 18, 2017.

[1] Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan created Evidence (1975–1977) by selecting photographs from a range of industrial, scientific, governmental, and other institutional archives. They cleverly sequenced select images to form an implied narrative in which subtle absurdity and menace pulled at the threads of progress, prejudice, and paranoia that run through this country’s national narrative—a narrative increasingly in question in the wake of the countercultural movement of the 1960s, the Vietnam War, and the deepening Cold War.

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