Through April 22, at Galerie Lelong, New York
Photographs have the extraordinary power to establish direct emotional connections to time. Like memory, photographs can offer a portal to a specific moment that attaches itself to a broader narrative. This essential facet of photography accounts for its central paradox: its assertion of a reality built on a foundation of illusion. Jane Hammond celebrates this feature in “Search Light,” at Galerie Lelong.
“Illusionary” is a fitting description for Hammond’s semi-translucent “Dazzle paintings.” Drawing on her vast collection of more than 10,000 vernacular photographs, Hammond has immortalized ten of these images for this show by carefully painting their forms onto Plexiglas-covered mica sheets, coated with silver, gold, copper, and palladium leaf. Thanks to this reflective material that catches light depending on your angle of approach, the paintings seem to breathe. The result are shimmering facsimiles of the original found photographs.
A young girl holding a duckling, a man luxuriating in a paddle pool, and two women engaging in an act of intimate bondage. This rather odd assortment of subjects, among several others, share a certain enigmatic charm that might lead you to forget that each originated from a photograph. And maybe that’s their point? By heightening the sense of the moment, Hammond’s “Dazzle Paintings” demonstrate why photography holds such power over us: it’s the ability to capture life in a way that renders it timeless.
In contrast to these works are Hammond’s photo-manipulated gelatin silver prints. Once again, the artist uses her collection of found photographs, rejiggering them to form new images. Only here, rather than magnifying moments of reality, Hammond attempts to show us how photography can undermine our perceptions. She does this quite literally by creating comical collages composed of elements from several different photographs. The result is a series of surreal scenes composed of actual moments.
Nine Days Later (2015), for instance, sees a motley crew gathered in an idyllic park. There’s a man doing martial arts, another resting on a daybed, and two shirtless ones playing a game of chess. In the background, a woman lies asleep on the ground beside two swans. Individually each element could pass for a candid shot. Altogether, though, they blend into something more cinematic. Hammond describes the collection of scenes as “stills from a movie in my head.”
Hammond lists John Cage as one of her influences, and it shows. From her years of searching for the images that comprise her collection, to the compositions that result in both her painting and collage works, Hammond shares a similar reverence for the element of chance.
“I’m interested in finding something in the world, the constellation of thoughts that immediately goes through my mind when I see it, and what I can make it mean in another setting,” Hammond told Hilarie M. Sheets writing for ARTnews in 2013. Understood as such, Hammond’s use of manipulated photography and chance can be viewed as a way to remind us that life is greater than the sum moments of its capturing.