Inga Kerber – Inman Gallery, Houston
11. Juli – 16. August 2014
Inman Gallery is pleased to present (Cliché of a Flower Bouquet), Inga Kerber’s first solo show with Inman Gallery, on view in the South Gallery. The show opens Friday, July 11th with a reception from 6 to 8, and continues through August 16th.
As with clichés, convention and repetition can help photographs feel true. But any photographer can testify that a print is a fabrication, and that apparent naturalism takes a lot of artifice. And as with clichés, photographs can obscure as much as they describe by favoring a single standardized expression over nuance or variation. Rather than minimize this paradox, Inga Kerber makes it her subject.
Kerber photographs traditional themes (flowers, in this case) with matter-of-fact detachment and develops her prints by hand. By way of distancing the image from its object still further, she then scans the pictures and reprints them. At every stage, Kerber tests variables. She tries different exposures, different papers, different scanners, and different printers. At that point, many photographers would choose the best process – the one that conforms most closely to theirintentions for the image – and produce a consistent edition. Instead, Kerber organizes the variants into multi-panel arrays. Inconsistencies of color, contrast, and brightness describe a spectrum of technical happenstance. Blurs and streaks stay in, uncorrected. A picture that was scanned crooked is crooked when it’s reprinted. Any notion that an image is authoritative, or an objective window on reality, is shrouded in a flutter of imperfections and approximations.
Confronted with Kerber’s systematic dismantling of photography’s premises, an easy takeaway might be the sense that authenticity is just another contrivance, and that no phenomenon is exceptional. These flower bouquets, as redundant as they literally are, certainly don’t feel significant. But if Kerber doesn’t seem to place much faith in the subjects of her photography, her fidelity to photography itself is beyond doubt. She scrupulously records every detail of a print’s origin: the ink, the machine, the location, even the time. Where conventional photography uproots an allegedly decisive moment by producing unending perfect replicas, Kerber uses the physical facts of photography, and the idiosyncrasies of individual prints, to anchor her work in a precise time and place. A reality does emerge, and a specificity, not from the flowers but from the photographs. Their flaws speak to their histories. Arranged in groups the prints assert an intricate collective identity, a joint chronicle of their making, that becomes, contrary to expectations, unique.