Elad Lassry

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Prepare to change the way you view an exhibition with Los Angeles-based artist Elad Lassry, writes Edmund Lee.


It’s alright if you feel that things look slightly out of the ordinary at an Elad Lassry exhibition. Small-scale pictures are sparsely hung around the gallery’s comparatively outsized space while, at closer glance, the singularity and integrity of the photographs seems to be perpetually compromised by their respective bulky frames, all of which are painted in overly saturated hues that are derived from the images they enclose. The Tel Aviv-born, Los Angeles-based artist is showcasing a variety of his new works – many of which intriguingly tread the line between photograph and sculpture – at White Cube Hong Kong. He talks to Time Out about his artistic philosophy.

Your work in recent years seems to display a consistent concern with the ways we look at things.
Yeah, that’s really the question. The core of my practice is the meditation – or the sort of constant questioning – of what a picture is in the 21st century, of what my experience with pictures is. I’m looking at the questions of looking and of ways of looking, and the ways of experiencing the world through [different degrees of] dominance in mediation. There is something very ontological about the work to me. There is the question of walking through an exhibition and considering the philosophical possibilities of what a picture is.

How did you arrive at this particular interest?
I think that, as a student, I noticed that pictures meant… what a picture is was a very unclear thing for me. My relationship to images as a student was very complicated. It was exciting for me but also confusing and it led to many new questions. It has a lot to do with [the process of] thinking through images that are very dominant in my mind, experiencing a world through images and questioning that experience, and also [charting] the different histories of the pictures, the systems they have gone through and the institutions and authorities behind them.

As your work is quite prominently about your viewers’ ways of seeing, how would you prefer them to approach it?
I think the work is very open. I don’t think of my work as didactic and I don’t think I’m asking the viewers to come to some kind of conclusion. I’m hoping to further the viewers’ experience and activate some cultural questions, and I’m hoping the viewers have an art experience through very familiar [visual] agencies. I work with strategies that are very familiar to the viewers, from the aesthetics of advertising to the palette and the colours and the themes and subject matters. I’m hoping to use these very familiar components to [create] a philosophical experience.

How would you describe your artistic influence?
I’m actually very influenced by philosophy. I mean, I look at art a lot but I can’t really say that art is something that activated me [into] making art. I think making art for me is a way to articulate questions about experience. So I’m essentially interested in the philosophical questions [about] living and experiencing the world in the visual sense. And I think what inspires me is the possibilities of stretching a question – when a question becomes very abstract and very elaborated and really pushes the boundary of what seems possible or logical. That’s kind of the mode I’m working in.

Many of your works are taking the images out of their contexts.
Yes.

So why do you find this way of working so fascinating?
Mainly because I’m very interested in the duality of the construction of meaning and the abstraction of meaning. There is something about the image, the picture in our time, that has this very fragile existence. On one hand, [the image] has the sort of independence that [it] can be completely abducted from what we think of as its context. The picture is so unstable and has been through such an aggressive system of circulation that there is something very ubiquitous about it. At the same time, of course there is a context. So I work in a way that there’s always a duality of acknowledging the context, the history or the multiple histories, and at the same time divorcing from it and acknowledging that history is not fixed and is constantly shifting. Being educated in the early 2000s, you almost accept the fact that there isn’t a singular context, that context is something that’s constantly falling apart.

You’re also employing a range of photographic techniques for the images, such as double exposure, blurs and superimposition of negatives. What’s the significance of them?
The significance to me was really to arrive at the fact that the photographs have always been haunted. The photographs have always been something that was not completely possible to explain. [In] my work I wanted to reference all the different [photographic] technologies. I don’t want the current technologies to be [taken as] the only reason for a revolution of the image. I really want to point to the fact that since the inception of photography there has always been manipulation.

Elad Lassry’s solo exhibition is at White Cube Hong Kong until Feb 9.

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