Magazine article Artforum International

Elad Lassry

Magazine article Artforum International

Elad Lassry

Article excerpt

THE LOS ANGELES-BASED PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER Elad Lassry often uses the term pictures when speaking about his work. He prefers it to both the more technical photographs and the more abstract images. This may partly be due to the lexical streamlining of an Israeli speaking English as his second language, but the distinction is nonetheless suggestive. Pictures carries a specific and familiar art-historical reference entwined with certain appropriative strategies drawing from mass-distributed print media, television, and cinema. And indeed, although Lassry's practice is primarily devoted to studio compositions and film, he also makes works using pages from vintage Life magazines, outdated textbooks, and many-decades-old Hollywood stills and publicity shots, often modified with blocks of silk-screened color or foil applique. Rather than engaging with the belabored discourse around post-Pictures generation appropriation, however, Lassry takes what he calls a utilitarian approach toward these found images. Inserted into groups of his studio-shot photographs, they serve as a kind of punctuation, imparting an aura of history to the other works and acquiring from them new life through the relationships that form between old and new pictures when they coexist casually on equal terms.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It is, then, perhaps equally significant that pictures can refer to movies as well as photographs. For his solo exhibitions, Lassry puts a selection of studio photographs and a few altered found pictures into conversation with one of his silent 16-mm films, which are themselves principally pictorial scenarios: silent, without narrative, and ranging from about five to thirteen minutes in length. Viewers are thus encouraged to explore the formal resonances and narrative connections offered by the associations between both printed and projected pictures.

Lassry's studio photographs fixate on formal arrangements in which monochromatic negative space surrounds single subjects or small, clustered groupings of like specimens. His subject matter is atomized and idiosyncratic: There are portraits of anonymous people and known personalities (a smiling Czech girl, a blonde girl with a surgical mask, a man named Michael, several Anthony Perkinses), studies of animals (a Burmese cat and her kittens, two wolves, a falcon, a flamingo, a snake, a Weimaraner), and still lifes individually showcasing melons, a head of cabbage and some radicchio, Persian cucumbers, bread, nail polish, lipstick, and balloons. All these subjects are handled with similar formal deliberation and restraint, resulting in still lifes charged with the soulful gravitas of portraiture and bodies distanced into sculptural form. The naked geometries and deadpan objecthood of Minimalism here cleave to the plastic flamboyance and everyday banality celebrated in Pop art. The staged arrangements, moreover, are emphatic and demonstrative in the straightforward manner of catalogues or textbooks. With pedagogical purpose, they seem to declare, in Warhol's words, "A good plain look is my favorite look"--even if it is everywhere obscured and elusive, distracted by formal concerns.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

For Lassry, the gap between photography and film is a continuum passing through a sweet spot where still pictures begin to convey extended temporality and moving pictures approximate stillness. The long fixed shots and constructed illusions of stasis or tableau in Lassry's films bring to mind Jack Goldstein's extraordinary short films of the mid-1970s, in which simple isolated actions (such as the untying of a ballet slipper or the barking of a German shepherd) transpire in a static cropped frame. Like Goldstein, Lassry makes the most of his adopted city of Los Angeles, maintaining high production values to achieve lush color and texture. But unlike Goldstein's films, Lassry's feature fluid camera work and are often edited with jump cuts; they also consistently portray live actors or dancers whose silent interactions imply the faintest of abstracted narrative possibility. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.