Howardena Pindell: Honor Fraser

By Taft, Catherine | Artforum International, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Howardena Pindell: Honor Fraser


Taft, Catherine, Artforum International


Howardena Pindell

HONOR FRASER

To legibly capture a television screen, a photographer must have both patience and a variety of technical tricks at her disposal, including a carefully calibrated shutter speed and an exposure time determined through trial and error. In addition to the motion of the video image, the analog photographer must also be sensitive to the friction between the camera's straightforward light-capture process and the CRT monitor's beams of magnetized electrons, which light up pixels within the screen to present a steady image to the human eye, but whose glow registers quite differently to the camera. This finicky process was often used to document early video art, yet, for all the technical skill it required, it was rarely presented as "serious art" itself. For this reason, Howardena Pindell's early experiments with this process are especially vital; her work is a touchstone for the seminal generation of artists who immediately succeeded her and who strategically employed rephotography, photographic appropriation, and mass-media imagery. Installed in a single row in Honor Fraser's main gallery, thirteen small "Video Drawings," which Pindell made between 1976 and 2007, reveal an artist deeply engaged with the subtle social codes of broadcast imagery and the formal properties of its technology.

Pindell's photographs intentionally retain the marks of raster lines, image blur, and RGB discoloration, and the images are further obscured by transparencies--marked with abstract systems of arrows, dots, lines, numbers, and other symbols that don't necessarily refer to the underlying image they seemingly diagram--which Pindell laid over the video screens she shot. Each drawing was then rephotographed again, a technique that provided an additional distancing from the picture's source. Video Drawings: Football, 1976, for example, depicts a pileup of male athletes, their bodies crowded by gestural arrows, perhaps indicating potential movement or stasis. Video Drawings: Boxing, 2007, shows two African American boxers engaged in a match, the surface of their muscular bodies marked with another flurry of arrows. …

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