Los Angeles

Elad Lassry at David Kordansky Gallery

Elad Lassry’s latest exhibition at David Kordansky commingles two groups of seemingly disparate works: highly wrought wooden sculptures, carved from single slabs of dark walnut, and dated commercial photographs, which have been intervened upon with materials such as acrylic paint, colored wires, and beads. The show attempts to bridge the gap between the two bodies of works by engaging the issue of pictorial representation as an abstraction of depicted objects—a far-reaching pursuit for compositions and techniques that seem fairly simple and straightforward on the surface.

Elad Lassry, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Elad Lassry, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

The black-and-white images found in Lassry’s series of sculptural photographs are taken from commercial photo shoots. The context of each photograph is deliberately withheld, with ranging subjects that include black fashion models, as depicted in Untitled (Woman B) (2015); a set of water glasses on a tray, and industrial parts, in Untitled (Engine 2) (2015), and scientific studies, as in Untitled (Rattlesnake A) (2015). The works center on a dual and seemingly contradictory assertion that “pictures do not exist until the information within them is framed, captured, and introduced into a new, separate system,” as the exhibition’s printed statement puts it—a claim to an image’s lack of an autonomous ability to convey meaning that Lassry’s addition of color and objects is oxymoronically meant to disrupt.

Elad Lassry. Untitled (Woman), 2015; acrylic glass, silver gelatin print, wire, steel ball, pigment; 23 1/8 x 17 1/4 x 1 5/8 in. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Elad Lassry. Untitled (Woman), 2015; acrylic glass, silver gelatin print, wire, steel ball, pigment; 23 1/8 x 17 1/4 x 1 5/8 in. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Lassry’s insistent swirls of colored paint and other materials onto these selected images is a conflicted half-attempt at reducing the works to mere signs of photographs. The arbitrary gestures of paint seem to be produced by a set of exercises that tells the idea of “context” as much as shows it, through a set of processes that are simple and schematic. The results, however, feel like an all-too-elaborate effort to remind viewers that a “picture” is always made from and within its context. The mild curiosity evoked in any individual piece—through the removal of the image’s context or the addition of disjunctive sculptural elements—lessens over the spread of dozens of such procedurally made work. Perhaps if the images themselves held more intrinsic charm, the deliberate eliding or withholding of their context might feed that aura, which Lassry’s work asserts as a(n unknowable) presence.

Elad Lassry. Untitled (Folk Dance), 2015 (detail); silver gelatin print, carpet, walnut frame; 11 1/2 x 14 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Elad Lassry. Untitled (Folk Dance), 2015 (detail); silver gelatin print, carpet, walnut frame; 11 1/2 x 14 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Some of Lassry’s earlier photographic interventions have been more effective when more heavy-handed. His application of thick vinyl onto the surface of the frame, and his use of saturated color materials to obscure portions of images, significantly comment on the photographic images underneath. The most compelling piece, among the current show, functions somewhat along these lines. Untitled (Folk Dance) (2015) is a silver gelatin print depicting the leaping legs of a small group of men, clad in sneakers and white pants. The upper halves of their bodies are overlaid with a swatch of cheap, thick shag carpet, set within a walnut frame. This action, however, does little to salvage the freak-show fetishization within other undisrupted works, such as the image of an anonymously manhandled rattlesnake. The exhibition statement makes an oddly obvious observation, pointing out that “the snake lacks the cognitive capacity to make a good portrait.”

Elad Lassry. Untitled (Rattlesnake B), 2015; silver gelatin print, walnut frame; 14 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Elad Lassry. Untitled (Rattlesnake B), 2015; silver gelatin print, walnut frame; 14 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

The accompanying series of large carved and polished wooden ovoid sculptures fall somewhere in between the form of oversized picnic baskets and half-shaped logs. The flat-leveled surface of each sculpture is embossed with the imprint of six to eight colorfully painted shapes, which suggest different types of fruits and vegetables in caricatured form. The wood has been worked on so finely that it elicits a shiny, polished surface that is almost unnatural. Both the refinement and somewhat outsize scale of the pieces contrast greatly with the excessively bright figure-markings of fruit on their surface.

The works create an intriguing tension around the questions of using so much material for these nonfunctional objects that masquerade in the form of almost utilitarian objects. That tension unfortunately gets overloaded with pressure from claims within the exhibition statement, which compare the sculptures to computer hard drives containing informational aspects of image in the digital age. The chain of abstract shifts—from the physical presence and weight of the sculptural forms to the idea of disembodied bits and pixels—is too attenuated to bear the burden of this conceptual apparatus. Such a leap is especially puzzling after the same statement’s insistence that Lassry’s choice of “analog” materials is meant to avoid “the ubiquitous digital references that abound in contemporary art.”

Elad Lassry. Untitled (Carrier, Carrots), 2015; Claro walnut, paint, varnish; 48 x 20 x 16 in. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

Elad Lassry. Untitled (Carrier, Carrots), 2015; Claro walnut, paint, varnish; 48 x 20 x 16 in. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

The speculative possibilities of coming upon this group of tooled objects themselves is more rewarding. The sculptures seem to be contrived for an unknowable and/or failed purpose, finished and decorated with an incomprehensible whimsy, and only partially manage to unsettle the heaviness and the finish themselves.

Elad Lassry is on view at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles through November 5, 2015.

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