Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chelsea Gallery Notes: Eric Fischl, Craigie Horsfield, Tom Friedman, Alec Soth, Adel Abdessemed, Mary Corse, Will Ryman, and Motoyuki Daifu

Two must see shows up right now in Chelsea are Eric Fischl and Craigie Horsfield. Mary Boone is showing a survey of Fischl’s portraits.  Fischl has always been known for his ability to imbue his paintings with a psychological frisson. In his earliest work, that affect came primarily from the narrative of the scene -- implied or actual; as his work matured, Fischl developed the ability to carry psychological content through his brushwork and attention to light. It is a perfect example of a painter’s subject eventually being expressed through the act of painting.

Eric Fischl, Portraits, at Mary Boone, 541 W 24th St., through March 17

I was trying to remember the last time I saw Craigie Horsfield’s work. It turns out it was 1996, the date of his last show in New York. I did remember large, refined, marvelously gritty, black and white photographs. So it was a real treat to see his most recent work playing off of what I had recalled: two monumental tapestries, based on photographs of a Russian circus, in which the texture of the fabric serves as a visual parallel to the negative’s grain. The work is spectacular and darkly mysterious.

Craigie Horsfield at Marvelli Gallery, 526 W 26th St., 2nd Fl, through March 22

There is a paradox in Tom Friedman’s sculptures: they seem strongest when they are at their smallest and most delicate. An example in his current exhibition: a tiny sculpture of a boy flying a kite, with an improbably long and thin thread connecting the two. It seems impossible that the string can support the weight of the kite, and yet it does and that gives the piece a kind of magic and wonderful lightness. However, as Friedman’s pieces get physically larger and more numerous, as happened in Luhring Augustine’s main gallery, the overall effect of his work begins feel leaden. Probably the best approach to this show would have been to have the boy with kite piece alone in the back gallery, and fewer pieces in the main gallery.

Tom Friedman at Luhring Augustine, 531 W 24th St., through March 17

The story behind Alec Soth’s Broken Manual is fairly complex: curious about white men who have retreated from society – out of anger, frustration, utopianism, or the simple desire to be left alone – he wrote a manual for hermits, survivalists, hippies -- and I suppose uni-bombers too -- about how to escape. He then went out looking to photograph men who had in fact left civilization to illustrate his ideas, using the manual as a way to gain entry and build trust with his reclusive subjects. Soth is an accomplished photographer and there are lots of sociological and political ideas embedded in his project worth exploring. Unfortunately, the photographs in the exhibition – despite often being beautiful and masterfully composed -- do not shed much light on who these men are. Instead, the endeavor seems somewhat circular – we see pretty much what we expected to see. In Soth’s defense, it may be that his idea is better presented in the expanded format of a book than in a gallery exhibition. The manual itself is problematic for me. It becomes part of an odd and redundant assemblage in the exhibition. But more importantly, I think artists should not be so sneaky.

Alec Soth, Broken Manual, at Sean Kelly, 528 W 29th St., through March 11

There’s been a minor movement over the past 10 –12 years of artists using taxidermy specimens as elements in their work. Adel Abdessemed, with his gigantic conglomerate of burnt stuffed wolves and other animals may have put an end to that trend, as it will be difficult to top in effect. If you go, be forewarned that the room smells kind of funky. His razor wire crucifixions are quite nice – simultaneously expressive and restrained. I also like the drawings of animals with dynamite strapped to their backs.

Adel Abdessemed, Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?, at David Zwirner, 525 W 19th St., through March 17

Mary Corse’s painted minimalist abstractions reflect light rather than represent it. Composed of a material akin to movie projection screens, these radiant paintings change in appearance as the viewer walks through the gallery.

Mary Corse, New Work, at Lehman Maupin, 540 W 26th St., through March 10

At Paul Kasmin, Will Ryman is showing an amazing canyon made out of paintbrushes, and at Kasmin’s second location on 27th St., Ryman has a large bird, made out of giant nails, holding a wilted rose in its beak.

Will Ryman, Anyone and No One, at Paul Kasmin, 293 10th Ave. and 515 W 27th St., through March 24

Motoyuki Daifu takes an intimate look into the life of his former girlfriend, depicting everyday disorder combined with moments of tenderness and connection. His work is concerned with feelings of love and loss on a personal level, as well as serving as a documentation of social mores in transition.

Motoyuki Daifu, Lovesody, at Lombard Freid Projects, 518 W 19th St., through March 3

Of the shows opening this Thursday - Saturday in Chelsea, I have Charles Long at Tanya Bonakdar, Donald Moffett at Marianne Boesky, and Melanie Willhide at Von Lintel Gallery among those I'll make a point to see.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Match Print to Screen in Photoshop: A Simple Method to Get Inkjet Prints to Match What You See on Your Monitor

One of the most frustrating aspects of digital photography is spending a lot of time and effort getting an image to look exactly the way we want on screen, only to have prints made from that file come out dark and off color. As a teacher, I find this situation particularly egregious, as print mismatching occurs even when the proper color management procedures are in place.  Remarkably, I’ve never seen this fact usefully addressed in printing demonstrations or in the standard Photoshop texts used in most schools.

On top is how the image appeared on screen; below is how the print appeared.

As you can see, the images are close, but the printed version is darker in the skin tones, with more saturation, and a slight reddish cast.

Color management is designed for the express purpose of ensuring that what comes out of the printer matches what you see on screen. The way it is typically taught starts with a discussion of monitor calibration and moves to the use of printer profiles and soft-proofing. I don’t want to suggest that this isn’t useful information, but even when applied correctly, ink jet prints still don’t match what is displayed on the monitor. There are some technical reasons for this that may be cited: screen contrast is much greater than that of the print and the range of colors an ink jet print is capable of reproducing is smaller than the range a monitor can display. But as a practical matter, images which contain colors outside the range of the printer’s capabilities are the exception. The real problem lies with the printer driver software – this is the software that determines what size and mixture of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink droplets will be used to represent the various colors and tones of the image. The software that comes with the printer simply doesn’t do a good job of this. The most efficient solution is to buy third party software to drive the printer, but it is expensive, and I’ve never taught at a school that uses it.

Fortunately, if you are using Photoshop, there is a workaround for this problem. The best part is that it is free and it doesn’t require a profiled and calibrated monitor. (If you’re printing at school, who knows the last time the monitor was calibrated?) I came up with this technique to give students a better way of printing. Typically, when the print came out dark and off color, you’d add some adjustment layers to compensate, but it was really guesswork as to how much lighter to make it or how much to adjust the color. You went through a process of trial and error, until you got something that looked OK, or gave up. My solution was to eliminate the guesswork.

The first step is to compare the print to the image on screen. When you do this, you want to be sure that the print is illuminated by the ambient light of the room. A lot of monitors have hoods to block off the ambient light. You don’t want to hold the print so that it is under the hood. I’ve found that it helps to pull away from the monitor so that when holding the print it matches the general size of the image on screen.

Next, make a series of adjustment layers to match the screen image to the print. Typically, I’ll use a curves layer to darken the screen image, followed by a hue/saturation layer if necessary and then a color balance layer to fine-tune the color match. Your three adjustment layers might look like this in the layer stack:

It wouldn't be a bad idea to label each adjustment layer as a print matching layer, and perhaps include the model of the printer, just to prevent them from mistakenly becoming a permanent part of the file.

At this point, the image on screen should match the print as closely as possible. If I’m demonstrating this technique in class, usually someone asks if I haven’t made a mistake: after all, we’re trying to match the print to the screen and not the screen to the print. But this is what we have accomplished through the initial set of adjustment layers: we’ve found the difference between the two. Now we know exactly how far off from the monitor image the print is. To get the print to match the screen, make the opposite correction with all of the adjustment layers. So, if my color balance layer reads +6, 0, -1, I simply switch the signs to  -6, 0, +1.

If the overall saturation was raised to +16 to match the print, I’ll invert that to -16. You can click on these screenshots to see a larger image.

The curves layer can be the most tricky. The easiest way to invert the curve is to use the input and output boxes, entering the adjusted values in the output box using the keyboard. Click on the point or points on the curve to select them, and one by one determine the difference between the input and output for each point. Below are the matching and inverted curves. Notice that the arc of the curve as it sags below the diagonal unchanged line is mirrored in the inverted curve.

And this shows the way to make the curve inversion for the upper right point. Of course, the other two points on the curve in this example must be selected and inverted next.

After each adjustment layer has been inverted, you will have an image on screen which will vary from what you intend the print to look like, but will account for the un-cooperativeness of the printer. This is what my adjusted file looked like on screen. As you can see it is lighter and less saturated than how I want the print to appear. Printing from this adjusted file will give me a print which matches the desired look of the image.

The principle behind the technique is simple: find the difference and compensate; however, it may seem like a lot of work the first couple of times. The trick is in accurately matching the screen image with the print when making the initial comparison. With some practice, you'll get the hang of it and improve your ability to discern the nuances of color and tone to boot. It certainly is better and quicker than guessing. One thing to note: the adjustments you are making apply to the particular monitor you are using and the exact model printer. If you are moving from workstation to workstation, or print to a variety of printers, you'll have to redo the process for each printer/monitor combination. If you are a teacher, feel free to try this with your class. If you share it, all I ask is a link back to this page.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

March Workshops: Editing a Project and Portfolio Review

Often times the hardest part of a project is choosing which images to present. In March, I will be offering a workshop designed to assist photographers working on an ongoing project with feedback on the direction of their work, sequencing, and editing.  The process of editing clarifies project goals, identifies and highlights latent themes, and enables a clear and concise presentation of your best work. The workshop will be limited to a maximum of 6 participants. Anyone looking to get feedback on an existing body of work or advice on choosing among several potential projects is welcome.

At the moment, there are 2 slots available on Saturday, March 3. Also, I've had a request for a second day for those who cannot make it on the 3rd. I'm considering March 17, pending sufficient interest. Workshops will take place at my studio in Brooklyn. (Easily accessible by public transportation.) Please contact me for more information or if you would like to sign up.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lower East Side Gallery Notes: Juergen Teller at Lehman Maupin, Thomas Øvlisen at Klaus von Nichtssagend, Ian Tweedy at Untitled, Jon Kessler at Salon 94, and Marble Sculpture at Sperone Westwater

Juergen Teller is a highlight among current exhibitions in the Lower East Side. Teller’s photographs, typically taken with a point and shoot camera, offer an intoxicating mix of baroque sexuality, beauty, deadpan comedy, innocence, and old world decadence. I’ve always admired his ability to express a sophisticated vision through the simplest of means. A side note about the show: I really liked the understated presentation. Too many photographers these days get sidetracked by unnecessarily fetishizing the physical aspects of the photograph, which comes off as both automatic and insecure.

Juergen Teller at Lehman Maupin, 201 Chrystie St., through March 17.

Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery is showing hybrid painting-sculptures by Thomas Ovlisen. A strong sense of facture dominates the work, drawing the viewer in through some lyrical passages reminiscent of Richter’s squeegee paintings or Stephen Ellis’ scrapings. Notwithstanding their clear object-ness, I read them more as 4-sided paintings.  They do have an interesting presence, vaguely suggestive of a personage despite their thoroughly industrial surface. One last detail, not immediately obvious, that I ended up really intrigued by: the tops and bottoms of the planks are covered with a painted coconut husk mat, providing a contrasting texture and unexpected foil to the slickness of the sides. I look forward to seeing more work by this interesting artist.



Thomas Ovlisen, Tomato, through March 4, 2012 at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, 54 Ludlow St.

Also worth a look are the visually inventive paintings by Ian Tweedy. Tweedy works on top of the covers of paperback books and upon the backs of thrift store paintings, which imbue a history and weight to his mysterious dystopian images.

Ian Tweedy, A Long Story, at Untitled, 30 Orchard St., through February 26.

My impression of Jon Kessler’s The Blue Period was mixed. When I first saw Kessler’s work in the early 90’s, I really liked it. He made elegant and playful work that spoke to the interface between technology and popular culture. The video part of his current show at Salon 94 seems didactic and technologically dated, and doesn't transcend the spectacle it is meant to critique. On the other hand, the framed paper collages on the walls are engaging. The show has its moments. Take a look and see for yourself.

none of these people are real

there are some clever moments

Jon Kessler, The Blue Period, at Salon 94, 243 Bowery, through March 10.

Finally, there is an amazing show at Sperone Westwater cataloging the various ways marble has been used by artists.

Marble Sculpture from 350 B.C. to last week, at Sperone Westwater, 257 Bowery, through February 25.