Reception: Friday, January 11 from 5-8pm

MINIONS OF THE SUN —Nick Irvin

Much of Andrew Norman Wilson’s video “KODAK” centers on an exchange between a boss and a worker. The terms of that exchange, like the labor relation it indexes, are asymmetrical: Rich, a career-long employee of Kodak who has long since been laid off, pores over the audio-tape memoirs of George Eastman, the heralded founder of the Kodak Corporation. With masturbatory glee, and a deftness of navigation that can only come from compulsive reuse, Rich shuffles through the hordes of tapes in a public library, seeking something. Although Eastman died generations ago, it is he, rather than Rich, who mostly speaks to us, and about whom we mostly learn: Eastman the dynamo, the captain of industry, whose personal mythology is inextricable from the titanic legacy of his corporation. As for Rich, we come to know him mostly for his adoration for Eastman (Rich instead warmly calls him “George,” as though they are old friends), and his pride in his former career. Together, they comprise his only relief from a life of poverty, blindness, incontinence, divorce, and regret. Even in death, the boss is somehow more alive.

Invoking the terms of labor in the context of art, and in relation to the history of photography in particular, inevitably conjures the tradition of documentary realism: sharp portraits of workers and machines, scientistic clarity, and an optimism (however conditional) toward the photographic apparatus’s ability to puncture and expose the veiled realities of the modern world. While this is a mode that Wilson has used in past work, “KODAK,” despite its sustained engagement with the East- man & Kodak archives, looks nothing like this. The work is propelled by a pulse of murky archival vignettes which emerge from the void, blending the corporate archive with snapshots from Wilson’s fami- ly’s photo albums (in reality, the Wilson clan are themselves subjects of Kodak’s success, as well as its post-digital collapse), set to a script that pulls more from Samuel Beckett than from Frederick Wiseman. It substitutes the delirium of subjectivity for the sobriety of evidence; it proffers associative leaps, rather than denotative capture. It is an af- fective investigation of histories both industrial and personal, and rath- er than telling these stories through prim, technocratic exposition, it instead churns up a miasma of fiction, phantasm, and poetics.

This is fitting, when you consider that “KODAK”’s image identifies with Rich, a blind, discarded cog in the machine. Our agent is not a sun god, gazing down over his own, orderly design – he’s a middling grunt, too entrenched to be certain of the bigger picture. He lived a life in devotion to a company that, to popular perception, trafficked in making the ephemeral permanent, only to see that company dissolve. Along the way, a workplace accident took his sight, hastening him down the path to his eventual liquidation. Life doesn’t make sense, so the image doesn’t, either. But such is Rich’s lot: unlike Eastman, he’s not a visionary. His fate is not genius, but fealty.

They make a good pair, then – Eastman the sun god and Rich the minion. Rich’s studious appreciation of Eastman’s memoir is model behavior for the captive, captivated employee: his own feeble self-flagellation underscores Eastman’s certitude, the steely coherence and resolve of the inventor’s self-narrative, as clear as a photograph. It runs all the way up to his infamously concise suicide note: “To my friends: My work is done. Why wait?” Only Eastman has the final word.

Contrast this to Rich, whose work will never get done, and never *could* be done, given the maintenance function of middle management. Though he yearns for a meaningful conclusion of which he feels robbed, Rich’s work could at most have concluded in a pension, rather than any milestone achievement. Eastman conquers, safaris, expands; Rich fills a seat for a time.

While the video’s recurring use of Harry Nilsson’s lovelorn ballad “I’ll Be Home” (1970) mostly maps onto his nostalgia for Rich’s estranged family (Eastman himself, we learn, never had nor saw use for a family), the song also casts sentimental light onto the nature of work, the perhaps more primary, of Rich’s drives. Its basis is in the kind of indefinite, irreciprocal support that’s so customary to the worker, who keeps the wheels turning as the boss gets to see the world:

I’ll be home, I’ll be home, I’ll be home Wherever you may wander
And wherever you may roam
You come back and I’ll be waiting here for you No one else will ever love you the way I do

I’ll be here to comfort you and see you through I’ll be home, I’ll be home, I’ll be home

If Rich is chasing his personal Rosebud, it appears to lie between his dueling roles as company man and family man. And when Nilsson’s lamentation carries us through the emotional peak of the video, it reminds us of the Kodak corporation’s very particular imbrication in both domestic and industrial spheres: we are shown a slideshow, in effect, of family snapshots – a wedding day, a childbirth, Christmas mornings, family pets and relatives who have long since passed, all with that telling, yellowed grain. These are pictures of a particular family, but also of a particular time. As Eastman boasts earlier, “I didn’t invent photography – I invented popular photography. I created a new class of consumers…My cameras allowed the world to smile.” Kodak’s largess grew in step with that of the so-called American Century, which gave its beneficiaries many more reasons to smile, and more things to want to remember: feelings of plenitude, stability, futurity, health. Rich’s family photos radiate this 20th-century idealism, and in this family in particular, it’s made all the more evident by the children’s Kodak hats and vests – gifts from Father’s company, which helped the world to smile.

Today in the west, such optimism feels about as rare and waning as film stock itself. For his part, Rich seems to place his blame on the march of innovation, resenting Kodak’s invention of digital photography, which would prove to be the instrument of its own demise. But true to Rich’s tragic servility, such reactionary determinism obscures the roles that our own century’s robber barons play in our decline. It certainly seems that, for them, the good life remains. Eastmans stay Eastmans, but Riches become poorer. What camera can capture that?

Following “KODAK,” Andrew Norman Wilson has produced two series of prints which illustrate the tools which have pulled this corporate melodrama along. The first shows the technologies of Kodak, digitally rendered: a spool of Kodacolor film, a printing station from 1982, and Steven Sasson’s first prototype of the digital camera, the Promethean device which would demolish one image-making paradigm and erect another. The second shows tools of dissemination – or more accurately, marketing: Eastman Kodak advertisements from the 1910s and 1920s are wiped of text, scrambled, and blended with found and modified CGI-rendered elements, the kind that anonymously populate countless ads today. The illustrated scenes convey the romantic, exoticized adventures at the core of the late Imperial era’s id, whereas the rendered aspects surprise us with elements from a more recent virtual imaginary. They sit alternately above and below the offset dot matrix of the Eastman Kodak print ads, suggesting the new visual space emerging between or beyond print and page. And with the certainty that only an Industrialist could muster, each of these prints carries that proud, foundational slogan of the photographic age: “If it isn’t Eastman, it isn’t a Kodak.” Today we might add: “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Andrew Norman Wilson is an artist based in Los Angeles. Solo exhibitions include the Kunstverein Braunschweig (2019), the Fotomuseum Winterthur (2019), Center for Contemporary Art Futura (2018), and the Broad Art Museum in Michigan (2017). Recent group exhibitions include Techne and the Decency of Means at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (2017), Dreamlands at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2017), the Gwangju Biennial (2016), the Berlin Biennial (2016), Bread and Roses at the Museum of Modern Art Warsaw (2016), and On Sweat, Paper and Porcelain at CCS Bard in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (2015). He has lectured at Oxford University, Cambridge University, Harvard University, Yale University, and UCLA, where he is now visiting faculty. His work has been featured in Aperture, Art in America, Artforum, ArtReview, Frieze, The New Yorker, and Wired. He has published writing in Artforum, e-flux, DIS, and a Darren Bader monograph from Koenig Books. He is a recipient of a Dedalus Foundation Fellowship and an Akademie Schloss Solitude Fellowship.

Elizabeth Atterbury

Elizabeth Atterbury (born 1982, West Palm Beach, FL) lives and works in Portland, Maine. Recent solo and group shows include Kate Werble Gallery, New York; The Portland Museum of Art, Portland; Mrs., Queens; The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville; kijidome, Boston; Document, Chicago; Western Exhibitions, Chicago; The Luminary, St Louis; Et al. Etc., San Francisco; Pulaski Park Field House, Chicago; Able Baker Contemporary, Portland; Ida Schmid, Brooklyn; TSA, Brooklyn; Bodega, Philadelphia/New York; KANSAS, New York; and The ICA at Maine College of Art, Portland, among others. In the Middle, An Oasis, a monograph of her work, was published by Bodega Press in 2013. She received her BA from Hampshire College and her MFA from MassArt.

Atterbury’s studio practice is fluid, fluctuating between picture making and object making. Fascinated with the autonomy of the artifact – objects disassociated from their original function and context – Atterbury’s practice considers the distinction or lack thereof between artifact, prop, model and sculpture.  Drawn to materials such as paper and sand, Atterbury constructs ephemeral tableaux specifically for the purpose of transfiguring and recording them. Both her photographs and sculpture build upon a continued interest in display and its visual structures, along with a more recent interest in language, ritual, and abstraction.

Installation view, Night Comes In, 2018, Mrs., New York, Clockwise from the floor: Arrangement 1 (Discoveries), 2018, Mixed media, Dimensions variable; Beads III, 2018, Peach pits, 61.5 x 1 x 1 inches; River Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood, glue, 23 x 19 x 1 inches

Em Oh Em, 2017, Beach Sand, basswood 8.5 x 3.5 x 2.25 inches (each)

Dog, 2018, Pine, 16 x 3.125 x 3.75 inches

Urn, 2018, Basswood, ash, 7 x 7 x 3.625 inches

Installation view, Night Comes In, 2018, Mrs., New York, Left: Bronze Chop (Large), 2018, Bronze, 21.75 x 3.375 x 3.25 inches Right: Urn, 2018, Basswood, ash, 7 x 7 x 3.625 inches

Elizabeth Atterbury, 26 Waves, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 22 3/4 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Alone at night, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Still life with bowl and mirror, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Anonymous Old Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Another Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Calligraphy Frame, 2018, Maple, acrylic paint, glue, 60 x 40 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, The Well, Again (Pool), 2017, Beach sand, glue, MDF, 10 1/2 x 8 x 6 1/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, The Well, The Wall, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Beach Woks (Marks of a Tool II), 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Still Life with Popcorn and Pits, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram III, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram II, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram I, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Tomb), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 12 x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (The Cut), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 13 1/2 x 28 1/2 x 1 1/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Sunset Hedge), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 1 1/2 x 16 x 2 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Small House), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 1 x 16 3/4 x 14 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Bull Shark), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 2 1/2 x 18 x 1 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Paper Cut / Hedge), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 10 x 9 x 1 3/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Noguchi's Intetra, Mist Fountain), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 11 x 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Lawn), 2016, Enamel paint, steel 9 x 9 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Big House), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 16 x 18 x 6 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Palms), 2015, Enamel paint, steel, 17 1/2 x 11 x 16 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Relief (China White), 2015, Plywood and paint, 33 x 48 x 1 3/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Moonlight on the river, 2014, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Slow Song, 2014, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Marks of a tool, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Rake, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 24 x 20 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Ghost Tracks, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 24 x 20 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Black Beach, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Bones, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterburym Glyphs II, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Glyphs, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Site, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sculpture Park, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Bricks, 2013 Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Harry, Henri, Sal, 2013, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Blue Runner Night, 2014, Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in, Editon of 3

Afterimage, Vol. 46, Number 2

Exhibition Review: Andrew Norman Wilson: Kodak

Andrew Norman Wilson: Kodak. Document. Chicago, Illinois: January 11–February 23, 2019| By Liz Park

Image 1. Still from Kodak (2018) by Andrew Norman Wilson; © 2018 Andrew Norman Wilson; courtesy the artist and DOCUMENT.

 

Andrew Norman Wilson’s thirty-two-minute video Kodak (2018) was the beating heart of his eponymous exhibition at DOCUMENT in Chicago. A series of prints that take inspiration from various Kodak products hung in an adjacent gallery while a stack of giveaway posters—of the company’s first digital camera from 1973 printed on recto and a text by Nick Irvin on verso—prepared those who entered a dark, curtained gallery. Irvin’s text introduced the video’s protagonist Rich as a mentally unstable former Kodak employee who became blind as a result of a workplace accident. These details emerge slowly, however, and in short bursts, like flickers of images that stitch together the stories of the character Rich and Kodak’s legendary founder George Eastman [Image 1].

“Your time is up,” alerts the high-pitched and tinny voice of a woman, beginning a narrative that is driven primarily by sound rather than images. A long minute passes with only darkness to accompany her increasingly aggravated chastising, dramatically peaking with “You have to stop now!” The first discernable image finally surfaces—a portrait of a bespectacled Eastman. A shaky voice that stands in for Eastman implores, “What is a photograph?” He answers himself: “. . . a dream, a reminder of how little you can actually capture.” Responsible for popularizing photography through consumer-grade technology, Eastman, as recorded in history and presented in this well-researched video, successfully tapped into the consumer’s desire to hold onto the fleeting moments of their mortal lives. Spiked with nostalgia, Eastman’s steady ruminations on life, photographic processes, and his business empire provide […]

Read the complete article here.

Owner
Aron Gent
aron@documentspace.com
Director
Sibylle Friche
sibylle@documentspace.com
General Inquiries
info@documentspace.com

Gallery hours:
Tuesday-Saturday: 11am-6pm

Private Works Login
DOCUMENT is a commercial gallery located in Chicago that specializes in contemporary photography, film and media based art. The gallery has organized more than 40 solo exhibitions since its opening in 2011 and actively promotes the work of emerging national and international artists. Operating conjointly as a professional printmaking studio, DOCUMENT facilitates the production of works by artists from Chicago and the US. At this time we do not accept unsolicited submissions.