You know what they say: Man makes plans and the MTA laughs. I wanted to leave my studio and hit three openings, one in Williamsburg and two in Manhattan. Instead I made it to one, had a beer, got lost on the subway again, and went home. The trouble was, as usual, getting across subway lines; going from Gowanus to Williamsburg just isn't a trip the subway is designed to make. So I either had to go all the way into Manhattan on the F and swap to the J back into Brooklyn, or I could try the G train and get off at Broadway and take what looks like a short walk on the map but turns out to be quite a hike following along under the J's el through a very entertaining neighborhood I've never been in before.
Nicole Stager makes photograms. That is, she shines light on photo paper. I've seen some artists working with photograms and Nicole is definitely the best. I should note, though, that I haven't seen a lot of photograms, and what I have seen I didn't think were very good. Photograms don't strike me as a fantastically deep medium. But Nicole definitely works with what I see as their best qualities, namely beautifully saturated colors and whimsical touches from the items exposed to the paper.
Nicole Stager, Query, 2005, c-print Edition 1 of 5, 12x12 inches
Nicole Stager, multiple pieces (Ciba, Grapple, Rube, Algo, Furn, Bair, Brace, Grape 01, Grape 02, Brace), 2008, unique chromogenic photograms and resin
The pieces I found less successful are less colorful, with medium values and vague hues. For example the signature piece of the show, which is about as uninteresting as photograms get. Nicole said almost everyone claimed it as their favorite, so clearly I'm a little strange.
I asked Nicole if she knew what color she was going to get before she developed the paper; keep in mind, these are photo negatives (even though they're not transparent) so the color is reversed from whatever light she used to make the exposure. She said that she usually has a good idea, but every so often one surprises her. The 'grams she pointed out as being surprising were, to me, the weakest of the show in terms of color -- kind of mottly and showing their photographic grain, like an overly enlarged picture. I much preferred the dense, almost palpable colors of some of her other work. So it seems to me the more Nicole knows what she's doing, the better she is. Which isn't surprising, really.
Brian LaRossa, Untitled, 2008, digital c-print, ballpoint pen, 24x24 inches