A solo exhibition by Brooklyn-based artist Mariah Robertson opens Friday in the second floor lobby gallery at Swope Art Museum, 25 S. Seventh St.
Robertson will speak at 6 p.m. about her works at the Indiana-American First Friday event.
Seeing documentation of her work pales in comparison to being confronted with the large, energetic and colorful works. Robertson uses traditional photography chemistry directly on photo paper to create expansive, abstract explosions. The scale of the framed works engross the viewer and transfers the raw energy apparent in the making of the camera-less work. In Swope’s Education Gallery, Robertson will have one of her whole-roll installations using a 100-foot continuous photograph.
Her process developed from an incident that ruined a 40-inch wide roll of Kodak metallic film in her studio. Rather than discarding the expensive material, she threw developer materials of various temperatures on it to cause a series of chemical reactions. Through these experiments, Robertson has mastered processes and techniques to create specific effects. A push/pull dialogue between chance and intention creates all-over abstractions.
Robertson also cites issues with authority and constantly being told “no” about things she deemed pointless. Some of her own examples:
One is not supposed to use glossy paper because it is unsophisticated, bad taste, etc.
One cannot touch glossy paper with an ungloved hand because the oil from the finger will render it a damaged, invalid object.
One cannot have any dings, creases or dents in the photographic paper (“if you want to be taken seriously”).
These examples are lists of complaints put into action by constant questioning — until they can’t be taken any further. Her whole roll pieces and installations grew out of working alone in her studio, cutting paper off a large roll with scissors. After repeated failure and frustration from attempting to replicate the precision of machine produced sheets, let alone in the dark, Robertson allowed the paper to be cut with irregular edges. The shaped paper set within deep, pristine white frames, make the photos more than an image or object, but a captured record of making. Referencing the history of photography as recorded light, Robertson’s work becomes recorded photography.
Robertson was born in 1975 in Indianapolis, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. She received a bachelor of arts degree from University of California-Berkeley and a master of fine arts in 2005 from Yale University.
The Swope is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and until 8 p.m. every Friday. Museum admission is free and parking can be validated for the SkyGarden parking facility at 662 Ohio St. Visit Swope.org for more details.