Greg S. Flood

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Art Writing

Christopher Taggart’s ‘Cuts and Splits’ at Eli Ridgway Gallery

April 17, 2013

 

Christopher Taggart, '(Real) Nude (Military Men)', 2010, (hand-cut UV laminated photographs on wood, 124 x 60 inches); (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery) 

 

 

Our society has become focused on and obsessed with the little things in life that seemingly would not matter much in the grand scheme. It is not the individual little things that matter, however; it is the aggregation of them into composite images that so captivates us. In fact, we are so obsessed with ‘big data’ and ‘analytics’ that we allow them to not only influence us, but to run everything from the internet to financial investments to the traffic flowing through our cities

 

Christopher Taggart, '(Real) Nude (Military Men)', 2010 (detail 1), (hand-cut UV laminated photographs on wood, 124 x 60 inches); (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery) 

 

The ordering and re-ordering of the little things can give us different viewpoints into the world around us. Sometimes they provide clarity into things like behavioral habits, while others create greater opacity to what we want to see, like the data aggregation that went into creating the investment derivatives that brought down the financial markets around the world.

 

Christopher Taggart, '(Real) Nude (Military Men)', 2010, (detail 2), (hand-cut UV laminated photographs on wood, 124 x 60 inches); (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery) 

 

 

The art world is not blind to this phenomenon. Many artists have embraced the ordering and reordering of information, be they texts or images, and have created works that are composed of thousands of pieces or marks. Christopher Taggart is among those artists. His new works at the Eli Ridgway Gallery display his obsession with aggregation for all to see.

 

Christopher Taggart, 'Colony (Scales of Justice)', 2013, installation view (archival inkjet and enamel on acrylic plastic, 26 x 72 inches); (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery) 

 

In his composites of photographs, Taggart has cut apart multiple pictures, either literally or digitally, and recombined them together to form a larger composite image. When looking the composites, however, viewers have no idea what the original images were. Instead, they see grids of squares, parallelograms or hexagons, with abstracted shapes of colors created out of the re-ordering. The results are beautiful, harmonious abstractions that left this reviewer impressed with their beauty, but also wondering about the source images and the meanings behind the composite images.

 

 Christopher Taggart, 'Colony (Scales of Justice)', 2013, (archival inkjet and enamel on acrylic plastic, 26 x 72 inches); (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery)

 

Looking at the titles on the walls can provide more, or less, clarity into the original source images. The title ‘Colony (Scales of Justice)’, 2013 (archival inkjet and enamel on acrylic plastic, 26 x 72 inches) only gives us a hint that the source images for this work are aerial photographs of 21 state prisons in California. However, ‘(Real) Nude (Military Men)’, 2010 (hand-cut UV laminated photographs on wood, 124 x 60 inches) provides a clear insight into the original source imagery.

 

Christopher Taggart, 'Colony (Scales of Justice)', 2013 (detail), (archival inkjet and enamel on acrylic plastic, 26 x 72 inches); (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery) 

 

 

With the title in hand, the contexts of the abstractions are revealed, but they still leave us in an ambiguous state. There is a long tradition of creating composites to represent the ideal, the best representation of that thing. These composites do not do that at all. They show us the fuzzy outlines of acceptable variations in the norm, not an ideal vision of how things should be; ‘(Real) Nude (Military Men)’ is not an image of the ideal soldier, it is the barely perceptible impression of what one could be.

 

Christopher Taggart's 'Cuts and Splits' at Eli Ridgway Gallery (installation view) (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery)

 

 

This body of work is the product of Taggart’s investigation of “the capriciousness of multiplication.” The ease with which society expands the prison system, mints out soldiers, and creates images with a click of a button is something we do without much thought, but these little things have a major impact on our daily lives. We are blind to their full effects until we see them in a composite image, which shows the value of aggregating the data. The contradiction of composites, however, is that despite their beauty they do not always provide a clear vision of reality, as Taggart’s photographs show us. These works are a visual warning on the limitations of aggregating information and how easily we can be seduced by the beauty of composites, even when they do not bring clear insight.

 

Christopher Taggart’s ‘Cuts and Splits’, the new show at Eli Ridgway Gallery, is on view until May 4, 2013. The gallery is located at 172 Minna Street, San Francisco, 94105; (415) 777-1366; Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm.

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