In the eleven photographs included in Rachel Granofsky’s exhibition “House Hunting,” quotidian objects like bedroom mirrors, ragged curtains, and cardboard boxes morph into visual puzzles that are nearly impossible to parse. Though the images at first appear to be the results of extensive postproduction editing, they in fact record optical illusions that Granofsky meticulously constructed in her studio by directly applying materials like paint, tape, and contact paper to the space’s architectural surfaces and to various props and furnishings.
Some works show isolated objects: Pawn (2014), for instance, features a milk carton turned into a marble bust, while Aeron (Rococo), 2017, depicts an Aeron desk chair seemingly superimposed over a gilded and embroidered eighteenth-century counterpart. Others have more elaborate, even prankish, compositions that conflate figures with their surroundings. In Bowl Sink (2017), a person appears to urinate from a faucet, while the placement of the figures in Madonna and Child (2015) against a piece of pink quilted mattress upholstery wryly nods to the Immaculate Conception.
Granofsky’s work belongs to a lineage of conceptual and post-conceptual photographers, including Dan Graham, Thomas Demand, and Jeff Wall, who draw on referents from art history and commercial photography to stage critiques of image-making conventions and the broader systems to which they belong. Many of the works in “House Hunting” deploy tropes familiar from real estate photos or home improvement ads, in which any trace of quirky individuality in the living quarters is expunged in favor of a monotone, prefab generality. Jessica (2016) depicts a bathroom that appears like a gleaming, white showpiece in the image’s central portion and like a lived-in 1970s holdover on the margins, the latter perhaps being the space pre-sprucing-up. Jessica 718-730-4949 is written atop the clean area, suggesting realtor’s details (though it also evokes graffiti in a public bathroom). Likewise resembling a before-and-after scenario, After/After (2018) shows a living room sliced diagonally into two halves: one pristine and white; and the other, dirty and abandoned-looking. In Reno (Guts), 2016, the floorplan of a four-room apartment superimposed on a whitewashed space piled high with domestic objects, such as lamps, doilies, and brooms, calls to mind the transiency of urban renters. Even when real estate is not directly addressed in Granofsky’s photographs, it hovers over their production: in building her sets, she often recuperates urban detritus from the environs of her Brooklyn studio, giving new life to abandoned furniture and discarded construction materials.
Unlike true trompe l’oeil, Granofsky’s images are up-front about their artifice. This is particularly apparent where straight lines wobble, as in the contours of the “A” that straddles two surfaces on the toilet in Jessica, or in the disjunct edges of the eponymous shape in Pyramid (2014). Motivated by what seems an almost ethical imperative, Granofsky’s photographs stall the act of looking via their careful irregularities, which disclose the artist’s hand as a reminder of the constructed nature of images in general.