David Benjamin Sherry is best known for his color-soaked landscape images – a sprawling body of work produced while he traveled throughout the American West and photographed the same vistas shot by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and the rest of the F/64 group. By revisiting these locations and processing the 8×10-inch negatives with varying amounts of cyan, magenta, and yellow, he simultaneously called into question the canon of photography and alluded to impending environmental concerns.
For Pink Genesis, on view at Salon 94 Bowery through August 4th, Sherry left behind both his camera and the bright, open spaces of the American West for a much different working environment: the darkroom. He opted to work exclusively with photograms, a strategy which finds him again experimenting with analogue processes as a means of emphasizing alchemy and physical reception.
His subjects include pieces of cardboard, frames, his dog, and even his own body, all of which are arranged in the dark. Roughly half of the works in the show are geometric abstractions, in which the artist has exposed concentric shapes in his signature monochromatic hues. Some, like the layered squares of Loving and Desire, 150C150M0Y, invoke Josef Albers; others are reminiscent of the Minimalist and Color Field works of Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland. While these geometric compositions are visually compelling, they’re not nearly as dynamic as those that feature life-size silhouettes of the human body.
The movement (or implication thereof) in these photograms, achieved through multiple exposures, or simply the guesswork of framing one’s own body in a darkroom, is performative, even dancelike. In Sailing on Solar Winds (Self Portrait), for instance, overlapping silhouettes lay splayed like chalk outlines in a crime scene. In Pink Genesis (Self portrait with Mars), the artist’s body lays prostrate in a dark pink rectangle, holding a NASA-generated picture of the surface of the red planet.
Yet, despite the playfulness of these gestures, Pink Genesis is ultimately a melancholy affair. The implied presence of the darkroom reminds us that, bright and the busy though the works may be, they were done alone in the dark.