Friday, January 6
The collection in “West Plaza” came from a singular experience of discovery. A group of boxes pulled from a dumpster outside of a medical facility in suburban Aurora Illinois in the spring of 2001 yielded a fragmented narrative; an archive of medical and photographic history. With stark portraits and casted artifacts dating from the mid-late 1950’s, the collection seems to no longer resist narrative but invite speculation and recognition.
This archive departs from a scientific intent and pulls at a more familiar and personal understanding of collecting. The portraits of these anonymous children become reminiscent of the copious records one keeps of childhood friends and faces. With a similar premise for each portrait, stripped of context, one is drawn to the varying gazes, ranging from passive to somewhat more emotionally charged and space between body and camera. Suggestive of a criminal mug shot – freckles, fashion and hairstyles come onto display. Within their individual expressions; the children seem expectant, suspended even, in a blank space and time.
For the past decade Paul Erschen has been collecting discarded images and objects throughout the Chicago metropolitan area from sources such as abandoned buildings, demolition sites, alleyways, and dumpsters. Oftentimes, the surprising overabundance of specific materials such as plastic drug bags and Newport cigarette packages sparks a process of collecting that is methodical, pragmatic, and increasingly habitual. These collections; characterized by their sobering anonymity, participate in a taxonomy of excess.