Curated by Allen Frame

May 4 – May 11, 2024

Opening Reception:
Saturday, May 4, 2024
6:00-8:00 pm

Call Everything Something* presents work by six artists from the Pratt Photography MFA class of 2024: Rachel Handlin, Ethan Li, Chloe Scout Nix, Erin O’Flynn, Kunwar Prithvi Singh Rathore, and Lena Smart.

Rachel Handlin has devoted herself to making large-format portraits of other Down syndrome college graduates around the world, traveling from Peru to Ireland in the process. She also creates self-portraits as boldly emphatic steel sculptures, featuring silhouettes of herself in different contexts, from standing with her camera to doing pushups on a mat. Self-portraits have become a rite of passage for many photographers, but self-portraits in action are rare; her pushup piece recalls Eadweard Muybridge’s experiments with his own figure in motion.

Erin O’Flynn finds elegantly minimal ways to express concerns about the perils of nuclear contamination and industrial waste. She connects the banality of cold, functional forms and textures like chain link fencing and industrial filters with the natural environment growing around them. “Willow,” for instance, is a perforated steel sculpture that is hand bent into a corrugated form, with an image screen-printed onto it of a willow tree found in the Emergency Planning Zone around Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.

Ethan Li offers a cityscape typology, but the architecture of the built environments that interest him appears incongruous, like futuristic invention, yet actually exists. With their mostly bold, primary colors, the tall structures brazenly occupy the environment without sensitivity to scale and context. Li imagines their monumentality as a dystopian idolatry, stark evidence of the religion of commerce.

In her intimate, figurative images, Chloe Scout Nix finds a new way to talk about familial interdependence without casting it as dysfunction. Gesture is key, through the choreography of bodies and limbs; she suggests a playful semiotics of belonging and adoring. A pet dog is hoisted atop a pair of feet and steadied by a disembodied hand. Two backs, side by side, imply kinship, one marked by a tattoo that reads “pure,” the other dotted by a few moles, the expanse of flesh a shared topographic landscape.

Kunwar Prithvi Singh Rathore takes a psychoanalytic plunge into the primal, creating connections between the absence of love in childhood with the anonymity of sex in the era of app hookups. His male figures are naked, conflating raw emotion with exposed flesh, as he juxtaposes the innocence of childhood depicted in family pictures with the objectifying gaze of sexual fantasy. At home in India, he makes posed portraits of his father and brother in traditional clothing as a contrast to the forensic depictions of his New York lovers.

Lena Smart situates the human figure alongside details of domestic architecture, looking at two kinds of support, structural and psychological. Using images of herself, her brother and parents, she juxtaposes the architectural with the personal, letting the sculptural subtleties of gesture offer glimpses into intergenerational dynamics, creating a space in between that hums with a perfectly controlled, taut tension.

The urge to identify things that exist in the world—photography as index—was a mainstay motivation of photographers until fairly recently. As fine art photography began to claim a bigger space in the realm of painting and sculpture, and the medium extended itself into film, video, and installation, it moved past explicit delineations and categories into a more ambiguous and abstract form, even as digital technology and social media outlets threatened to overwhelm the medium. The compulsion to “call everything something” is still a driving force, but artists find new ways to complicate the naming and deepen the apprehension.

call everything something
or face a vast ineptitude.

—From “Wittgenstein in the Palisades,” a poem by Maya C. Popa from her collection, American Faith, Sarabande Books, 2019.

Allen Frame is a photographer and writer whose recent book of photography, Whereupon, was published by Palermo Publishing. His work is represented by Gitterman Gallery and he teaches photography at Pratt Institute, the School of Visual Arts, International Center of Photography, and for Strudelmedia.

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