Continuing his practice of blending the hyperreal and the inherent materialities of photographic production, artist Stan Douglas has returned to David Zwirner this month for a show of new works from two divergent modes of practice. The show, titled DCTs and Scenes from the Blackout, mixes together Douglas’s ongoing practice of detailed, involved portraiture, staged scenes that incorporate both specific time frames/locations into a freewheeling riff on the construction of reality, and a body of work that uses computer algorithms to deconstruct the image. Throughout, Douglas’s interest in the construction of the image, and the narratives (or lack thereof) that emerge from the surface is at center stage.
In one body of work, Blackout, Douglas has reimagined a staged crisis, drawing on the history of the New York Blackout in 1977 and the scenes of personal interaction or societal breakdown that stem from such a moment of sudden change. Douglas has used the photographic medium as a tool for understanding the interpersonal dynamics that arise in such moments of societal fracture in the past, creating similar series centered around riots, protests and other moments of intense social conflict. Here, the artist poses his situations amidst blank scenes and enveloping darkness, bathing his narratives in a sense of indeterminacy that makes the scenes depicted all the unnerving and vague. In one piece, several figures seem to be carrying a body up stairs, a moment that feels just as surreal in its positioning and depiction as a moment of crisis often does.
Douglas’s DCT works draw on a data point sequence called a “discrete cosine transform,” used in the compression of JPEG images as a way of maintaining image quality while decreasing the file size. Using these systems to produce images, Douglas has rendered a body of works by entering in color values and points into a program, which in turn spits out works using data as material for flurries of color and hypnotic, swirling compositions. Much in the same way that the artist’s other work seems to construct its own realities through an accumulation of signifiers, Douglas’s images do so here at the most elemental states of art making: the point and line.
Turning the production of the image into an investigation on the production and framing of reality, Douglas’s work is on view through April 7th.
— D. Creahan
Stan Douglas: DCTs and Scenes from the Blackout [David Zwirner]