San Antonio, TX
Hold Still brings together the work of two artists with practices rooted in the history and current trends of still life photography. Established artist, Robert Langham’s still life imagery features subjects from his East Texas surroundings, including animals, plants, parts of the figure, and everyday objects. Emerging artist Casey James Wilson selected works also features seemingly mundane subject matter in a visual style more referential of product display and design.
The photograph is always considered by the viewer in terms of real time and space, that it is in someway an actual moment that has passed and was documented. Because of this role, the idea of a composed, altered, staged, or “fake” scene can be unsettling to the viewer, especially when it disguises itself as reality. When the photographic practice is brought into the studio and produced for the purpose of gallery presentation vs. printed media, the composed and altered photograph becomes acceptable to the viewer. Both artists’ bodies of work point to this notion amongst other topics. Working to construct each still life the artists collage, assemble, reframe, recontextualize, and crop their subjects, pointing to both fabricated and existing uncanny, surreal, and humorous qualities.
Intrinsic to Langham’s works is the notion that the practice of representing still lifes as a subject originated with the mediums of drawing and painting and was adopted into photography. This brought him to question what is photography's unique role in rendering a still life. Is it merely a document of a sculpture? What might a still life look like that required the camera or photography to be rendered/completed. In response, Langham introduces kinetic, living and temporal subjects to his arrangements. Langham's process is traditionally based, rooting his body of works firmly in the history of classic still life.
While Wilson’s subjects are inanimate they are not stagnant. The duplication of part of the subjects, repeating patterns, shadows, and other visual elements create compositional movement. These gestures also introduce digital manipulation into the conversation and the acts of painting and drawing in digital space. Some images are digitally rendered in part and others employ pattern and vivid colors, playing with the viewer’s perception, inviting a closer investigation.
Hold Still shows the viewer how our perceptions and associations with the real vs altered and staged vs found lead us to investigate photographic imagery with a different lens than other types of images. Our selection of works and the two artists presented also demonstrate how these associations continue to live with the medium even with contemporary practices and the changes of the medium.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website