Stephanie Syjuco plays with the art of plundering, Matt Bryans calls up photography's ghost.
Syjuco is certainly not the first artist to take on the art world's biggest white elephant: value. But she wields her scalpel with a thoughtful precision and economy of gesture that will forever be beyond the abilities of a gaseous giant such as Damien Hirst. And that, to borrow another clichéd bit of market-speak, is truly priceless.
If you missed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's excellent Eadweard Muybridge retrospective that closed earlier this month, Matt Bryans has created something of an homage to the early master's photographic panoramas and doctored views of a not-quite-virginal Yosemite at SF Camerawork.
"Untitled" unfurls along one of the gallery's walls for nearly 30 feet, a fantastical expanse of ever-shifting landscape seemingly captured from a middle distance. Glaciers give way to snow-capped peaks, which then dip into valleys that ease into rolling plains and finally abut more misty crags. In the piece's upper half, clouds swirl and dissolve across the arc of the sky as in a Chinese ink painting.
Although the piece has the weathered patina of an old daguerreotype and recalls Muybridge in its staged epicness, Bryans is a collage artist who works solely with a medium whose livelihood has been called into question about as often as film photography's: newsprint. "Untitled" — which like the other large collage commissioned by SF Camerawork is all explosions and stars wrapped around a support column — was created using only India erasers and inky photographs clipped from newspapers.
Scanning the sky of Bryans' panorama, you can make out the smudged traces of what was once type. And the closer you look, you start seeing the fissures between the thousands of carefully glued pieces that Bryans has transformed into a seemingly organic whole, which nonetheless appears on the point of disintegration.
The panorama piece is large enough that it sags a little and billows whenever a current of air hits it. It seems to hang heavy with the losses it embodies — photography's ghosts, newspapers as a disappearing medium, the unknowable contexts of the images themselves — a load that's almost too much to bear.
STEPHANIE SYJUCO: RAIDERS
Through July 16
Catharine Clark Gallery
150 Minna, SF
MATT BRYANS: BREAKING THE LAND
Through Aug. 20
657 Mission, SF
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