Moskowitz Gallery, Los Angeles
June 11 - August 11, 2014
Opening Reception: June 11, 7 - 9 PM
Counter-form presents a selection from the artist Adam Moskowitz’ eponymous series. The photographs are multiple-exposures: images are overlaid on top of one another “in camera” (without the use of digital manipulation), producing works of deeply complex structure and near abstraction. In this series, Moskowitz releases photography from its representational costraints - in a sense inverting the camera lens backwards to the spirit of the artist himself, and in doing so Counter-form evokes the volatility and formal power of abstract painting.
The development of the technique displayed in Counter-form stems from the artist’s belief that beauty in art is not a matter of the subject itself, but lies in how a subject is portrayed.This often heard maxim is usually heard in reference to music and the “plastic” arts of painting and sculpture. It exemplifies the expressive power granted to the painter (or composer) by ennobling their subjective vision of reality. Armed with a belief in the power of form, a painter need only look inward, and provided they can execute, can wring beauty out of anything - even the ugly. The application of this belief to photography, however, seems contradictory; a camera is not a paintbrush, not an extension of one’s body, but something else. A camera is built to capture and reproduce the physical world exactly. Since a camera lens is the actual mechanism through which the material world is reproduced, then it is the analog of a painter’s hand. A photographer, therefore, has a comparative lack of formal control over what they produce: under this strict definition, a photograph is not the product of creative vision and bodily technique, as a painting is, but a collaboration between mind and machine.
For a photographer to see matters of form as so central to their art would seem to create an ideological stumbling block. In order to overcome this paradox, Moskowitz had to find some way of winning back the control that is normally relinquished to the camera lens. His multiple exposure technique side-steps this issue by obscuring the subject, divorcing it from its real-world baggage. By overlapping an image upon itself, he shatters the original subject into rhythmic repetitions of its constituent parts, dissolving the original image by duplication. The photographs become abstract examples of line and color: A skyscraper becomes a monument of swirling gray and assertive lines. A mountain ridge bisects itself, becoming an off-cen- tered saltire that seems ready to break apart and fall to the floor. By some visual alchemy, Moskowitz has reverse-engineered the formal constituents of visual art: color and line. His work then becomes a manipulation of form in a way quite similar to that of painting, for he has made the camera lens see what is not really there.
In describing his work, Moskowitz draws an analogy to the concept of counterpoint in music, where small, imitative motives are layered on top of one another resulting in a series of lucid and logical harmonies. For this reason, he has titled the series Counter-form; in his works abstract details coalesce into an organic and euphonious whole, enlivened by the numerous variations and vigorous individuality of its components. Like a city of a million inhabitants, the vastness of it is made even more impressive when we consider that each of the million is not merely a number but a person, an individual. The formal structures in Moskowitz’s photographs work similarly to produce an organic whole which is much greater than any mathematical conception of it. It is a feat of virtuosity, then, that Moskowitz made his Counter-forms “in camera;” he must have envisioned his images before he took them - the structures are too precise to occur accidentally.
The images in the exhibition were drawn from two distinct sub-series of Counter-form: Organic, which are derived from the natural world, and Inorganic, from architecture. Each work is titled accordingly. In curating the show, however, efforts were made to present the works so as to highlight their abstract qualities, keeping in-linewith the original intent of the artist. This exhibition is presented in such a way that a viewer will be less inclined to ask “what does the work represent?” than to ask “how does it represent?”