Roberts & Tilton is pleased to present “New Photographic Portraits,” an exhibition of new works by Evan Trine. This current body of work continues Trine’s continuous exploration into the mis/translation of information, taking traditionally “understandable” imagery – the portrait - and transforming what we see into a median color. Single color grids, Evan’s “portraits” of himself and others, is information at its simplest; the history of portraiture reduced and condensed into a monochromatic formal abstraction.
In this portrait series, Trine has selected existing images of himself, friends, and family, and compresses them into a single pixel. By eschewing traditional darkroom chemistry for digital processes, the formal, conceptual and technical aspects of photography transfer to the work. Trine’s optical flattening creates a limited visual vocabulary, effectively isolating the accuracy of image’s referential source, folding it into its predominant color.
By converting the experience into an image, photography gives shape, and time, to the transient experience. Arranged in a makeshift horizon line of uniformly sized squares, the immediate visual effect of his photographs is that of sameness. A closer look reveals the drag and pull between the contrasting shades of light and dark snaking across the walls, opening up questions about how we engage with the complexities inherent in these contradictions and emotions. Additionally, Trine subverts the authority that is understood by the viewer, based on their knowledge of the mechanism of the camera. Despite the possibility of identical reproducibility, each image remains a unique piece; digitally printed, mounted on Dibond, framed in maple.
A photograph about a person or an event is, at its core, an interpretation; each portrait a fragmented visual statement inserted between experience and reality. Susan Sontag, in her wildly influential “On Photography” (1977), argued that the photographic image is a control mechanism we exert upon the world — upon our experience of it and upon others’ perception of our experience. “Photography reveals so much about society, politics, history, and our attitudes towards preserving the image and the potential ‘truth’ inherent in a photograph” (Susan Sontag). We need the camera in order to realize and substantiate our experiences.
Thirty some years after Sontag’s observation, which precipitates the forcible framing of our identity for presentation via social media, Trine sets up a paradigm where a viewer can approach a photograph without expectations of understanding what it means.
Evan Trine holds a MFA from Claremont Graduate University and BFA from Azusa Pacific University. “New Photographic Portraits” is the artist’s second show with Roberts & Tilton.