845 W Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Tuesday thru Saturday
11am to 6pm
editions and more
Exhibitions presents a solo show by Nicholas Frank
debuting three new projects: photographs of tourists taking
photographs of tourists presented in unique, artist-designed
frames; an album that collects skips from Frank’s personal
vinyl record collection; and a sound sculpture using an authentic
Milwaukee County Department of Public Works garbage can. The
show opens on Friday, December 11, 5 to 8pm and runs
through January 23, 2016.
I’ve long had an ambivalent relationship with photography,
specifically snapshots. A decade or so ago, when visiting over
the holidays, my mother wanted to show my new sister-in-law
some family photos. When my brother and I expressed utter disinterest,
my mom snapped, “What’s the matter with you, don’t
you like pictures?” I guess not. Like the narcissist within
all of us, sure, I dig looking at photos of myself over the
years but I don’t have much compulsion to record my life
through images (though Instagram is changing this somewhat).
I’ve long wondered why people have their photo taken in
front of monuments, historical sites, paintings in an art museum;
this fascinates Nicholas Frank, too (more on this in a minute).
Back to my mother: she visited Chicago recently and I met her
and my brother’s family in Millennium Park. She asked
us to stand in front of “The Bean” for a photo.
I died a little inside.
Nicholas Frank has long been interested in
photographs. The first time I saw his work was in the mid-1990s
at the Madison Art Center in a survey of the state's contemporary
art called “The Wisconsin Triennial.” He showed
meticulously carved-up snapshots – a rock or a log, cut
out from a standard-sized pre-digital photograph, this tiny
snippet then affixed to a long pin, so as to create the illusion
of the logs and rock floating away from the wall, free of any
context. As a grad student at UW-Madison, grappling with art
with the capital-A then, I was struck dumb by this simple and
unassuming gesture. It was easily the most memorable presentation
in the show, and I still don’t really know the meaning
behind it. Thus began my interest in Nicholas Frank and his
work, stemming from his interest in the snapshot. Strange bedfellows
For Post-Self, his fourth solo show with Western Exhibitions,
Frank recognized that the selfie has relegated to the past a
certain quaint ritual, when tourists had to ask someone to help
them get pictures of themselves in front of famous locations
(or anywhere, really). The subject stands frozen, looking awkwardly
like they’re facing a firing squad, about to be ‘shot’—unsure
of which exact uncandid instant would be preserved forever.
Picture after picture of the self, in front of things. With
the shift in agency of selfies, needing no enabler, this inversion
of subject is finally clear. Any photo really is about oneself—the
backdrop changes, but we travel to every exotic locale in order
to witness our own constancy.
Frank’s Pre-Selfies photographs depict people
taking pictures of people, in the late moment (c. 2006-2009)
just before selfies became pervasive. They are in unique, artist-designed
frames that employ planar perspectives within each photograph.
What selfies and pre-selfies share is that they are momentary
removals from the flow of awareness, the program stopping to
regard itself, again and again, like skips in a record, momentum
resetting continually, a song taking a snapshot of itself. A
companion piece, Greatest Skips, is an LP of skips
from the artist’s personal vinyl record collection, two
15-minute compositions of these minor incidental compositions.
Both of these projects are interruptions in communication, mini-revolts
or removals that reset the purpose of shared space and time.
The new sound sculpture Tipsy Grouches (Communitarian Hypothesis)
further explores the subject. Using an actual Milwaukee
County Department of Public Works garbage can and stencil, and
made with Alec Regan (of American Fantasy Classics, a Milwaukee
conceptual art fabricator), as an argument between theorist
Alain Badiou and members of New York’s Platypus group
on the textures of social responsibility, and the meaning of
revolutions as both destructions and resettings of order.
Frank is an artist, curator and writer residing in
Milwaukee. He ran the Hermetic Gallery from 1993-2001, co-founded
the Milwaukee International in 2006, programmed INOVA (Institute
of Visual Arts) from 2006-2011, and is currently Curator-In-Residence
at the Poor Farm. Recent solo projects include NADA New York
with Green Gallery and Untitled Art Fair with Nathale Karg (both
2013), Peregrine Program and Western Exhibitions (both Chicago,
2013), and dual solo exhibitions at Lump in Raleigh, NC and
the Green Gallery in Milwaukee in 2012. Frank teaches New Studio
Practice at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. He
lives and works in Milwaukee.
See more Nicholas Frank work here.