Josephine Pryde makes exhibitions that attempt to display the conditions of their production, including their own desire to cling to such a claim. Her photographs and sculptures reactivate techniques and concepts from a variety of sources—including fashion photography, the natural sciences and fine art printing—and function in a more or less close combination with the specific surroundings and their attendant relationships.
During a potentially endless period of self-celebratory ambivalency, it can be as erroneous to issue a proclamation of freshness as it can be to reconcile onself to mutual stagnation. The time-honoured artistic device of corrupted reference may be re-introduced in this context, but only briefly, as a critical measure. At the same time, as the exit routes once promised by creative distraction become increasingly clogged, then what can an art exhibition offer by way of a temporary effort at concentration?
The photographs Relax (blue) (2004) and Relax (grey) (2004) made especially for the exhibition in the Secession, demonstrate in two stages how a mass of paint flies through the air and lands the next moment on a car. The car in question is a white Honda Prelude 20 Ex, plus its shadow, another Prelude, in grey.
So how does the flying paint look? And how does a handful of yellow gunk look if it is recorded while it dries up over a period of 36 hours, as in the series of 13 photographs A Moment Away from the Pressure (2004)? Using photography to see something that the naked eye cannot is a way of re-calibrating the universe so that it falls within our constraints—but since this is far from a new experience in visual culture, for Valerie , it is activated more as an automated response, as if to re-calibrate our constraints so that they can fall inside the universe.
The long sculpture Chains (2004) is an obvious remake of the work Untitled (Rope Piece) by Eva Hesse from the year 1970. In her version, Josephine Pryde replaces the carefully made latex coated ropes with oily and used scrap bicycle and motorcycle chains. Since Untitled (Rope Piece) is probably too fragile ever to be exhibited again, using the chains becomes a way of stabilising the literally degrading original art work, whilst at the same time de-stabilising projections of gender-specificity onto the nature of the materials used.
Finally, a pair of solarised portraits of artist Lucy McKenzie recalls the surrealistic darkroom experiments of Lee Miller and Man Ray—not forgetting that legend has it that it was Miller who first switched on the darkroom light, and thus invented the process that became most synonymous with the name of Man Ray—an exemplary cautionary tale told to many a young woman artist setting out on the long hard road ahead. Solarisation is something of a clich é these days, but if nothing else, it can at least stand here as a reminder that inspiration, like dreaming, will stand for no damned nonsense about good taste.
Josephine Pryde, born in 1967, lives and works in London.