"Erin Shirreff" at Lora Reynolds Gallery
The artist blurs the line between photography and sculpture, creating a stunning result
Reviewed by Marisa Charpentier, Fri., Dec. 28, 2018
It seems obvious that experiencing something in person is more powerful than simply seeing a photo of it. Vibrant photos of food, cities, and art punctuate our Instagram and Facebook feeds, making us crave the experience of them ourselves. But is experiencing everything in person necessarily better than through a visual? That's one of the questions that New York-based artist Erin Shirreff addresses in her first presentation at Lora Reynolds Gallery.
The exhibition, a combination of sculpture and photography, blurs the line between these two art forms, leaving an intriguing grey area for viewers to explore. Her pieces don't fit perfectly into either category. For example, her Fig. series features prints of geometric sculptures, but neither print lays flat in its frame. Rather, each bends outward like pages of an open book, as if to say, "Read me."
As a whole, the show is an invitation to do just that. Fully taking in Shirreff's work requires study. Little about her work is overt. The piece Four Heads arranges images of sculptural faces into a collage. On the surface, the images do not resemble heads. But a closer look reveals eyes, noses, and cheeks turned at odd angles. By combining sculpture and photography, Shirreff creates new beings entirely. The result is a hybrid creature of sorts, one that's both jarring and beautiful.
Not only does Shirreff combine art forms, she also translates them from one to the other. Her piece Lacquer, pocket is a collection of large, flat shapes that look like sheets of scrap paper placed in a shadow box. In reality, the pieces are enlarged aluminum prints of modernist sculptures. She weaves from sculpture to photography and back to sculpture. The final product is neither wholly sculptural nor wholly photographic.
Groups of geometric blocks are arranged precariously throughout the space as well, juxtaposed with the more photographic elements of the exhibition. If anything, these lackluster 3-D shapes emphasize the power of photography. The prints in Fig. and other works here maintain a sort of supernatural mystery, as only an image can. The shapes in that series appear to float through space, defying gravity in a way that the sculptures themselves cannot in real life. Perhaps Shirreff is on to something: Images can be more powerful than sculpture when they appear to promise something reality cannot.
Shirreff's work truly shines, though, when she does not confine herself to one medium. The only canvas in the show, Night Exposure, is a cyanotype – a photographic printing technique – made with blue fabric, cutout versions of her geometric sculptures. Again, Shirreff ignores the line between sculpture and images, creating a stunning result. Her work is testament to what can be done when we look past boundaries and explore whatever ensues, finding beauty in uncertainty.
"Erin Shirreff"Lora Reynolds Gallery, 360 Nueces #50, 512/215-4965
Through Jan. 12