In his first exhibition at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, photographer Christopher Russell shares a series of work in which he explores and adds to the genre of altered photography. While his technique is based in tradition, it hardly resembles conventional photographic practices.
In Dissonance, Coincidence and Errant Gradations of Light, Russell is inspired by a fanciful notion to photograph the end of the world. Using a low quality lens, the artist shoots directly into the sun before physically altering the works by folding, scratching and even trampling them into asphalt. Russell further modifies the work by scratching text and imagery into the surface of the Plexiglas covering the print. As a result the artist not only maintains the narrative character of the piece, but also introduces an interactive element to the work. Shadows created by the scratches change depending upon the angle one views the piece. Russell’s unorthodox technique results in a fragmented story without beginning or end, suggesting an appearance of a distant explosion or of an asteroid entering the earth's atmosphere.
For Russell, the photographs in the exhibition are the final chapter of a handmade book, which serves as the genesis of the show. When open, the four foot wide book consists of five chapters containing 60 unique drawings. The work reflects the artists stream of consciousness, that begins by addressing the history of photography, then wanders through tales of mistaken identity, includes a guide to the proper etiquette of shoplifting, and quotes from a modern day witch trial. While each chapter is uniquely its own, there is a continuity in form that unites all the disparate elements.
Russell (b. 1974) received his M.F.A. from the Art Center College of Design (CA). In 2009, he produced a solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, CA). He has also been featured in group exhibitions at the Tokyo Institute of Photography (Japan), The Norton Museum (West Palm Beach, FL), Armory Center for the Arts (Los Angeles, CA), White Columns (New York, NY) De Appel Arts Center (Netherlands) Oakland Museum (Oakland, CA), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA), among others. He has published numerous critical articles in addition to being a featured subject of positive review by the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Huffington Post, Artillery, Frieze, and ArtForum, among others. Russell is also known for his 'zine Bedwetter. His first novel is Sniper, and other books include Budget Decadence (2nd Cannons Publications), Pattern Book (Insert Blanc Press) and Landscape (Kolapsomal Press)–which was included in Martin Parr's The Photobook: A History Volume III. His work is included in the collections of 15 public institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Hammer Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, to name a few.