Max de Esteban, Heads Will Roll (at) Klompching
Loring Knoblauch, October 21, 2015
JTF (just the facts): A total of 9 large scale color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are archival pigment prints, made in 2013. The prints come in two sizes: 49×39 (in editions of 5+1AP) and 28×22 (in editions of 5+1AP); there are 8 large prints and 1 small print on view, drawn from a total of 24 images in the series. A monograph of this body of work was published by Hatje Cantz in 2014 (here).
Comments/Context: Part of what de Esteban is doing here is unpacking the structural foundations of what a photograph has historically been and how it has functioned, and rebuilding those assumptions from the ground up with a different kind of digital existence in mind. Instead of photography being rooted in documentation, or inspiration, or some definition of “truth”, de Esteban is putting re-interpretation and re-translation at the forefront of the digital now, with a distinct and deliberate emphasis on the re-. What the source files meant in their original or archival context isn’t important – it’s how they have been reassembled to generate an evolved harmony (or dissonance) of new allusions, references, hints, and perceived memories.
While de Esteban’s chosen mood is full of ominous foreboding edging toward catastrophe (there’s even some last ditch sex as the bombs are falling from the sky), that personal cultural pessimism isn’t the important analytical vector here. What’s more telling is de Esteban’s crisp definitional argument about what digital photography is now, what tasks it employs and requires, and what outcomes it can generate. He’s staked out the ground for a different kind of photographer/artist – not one who uses a camera to see the world, but one who reinterprets digital imagery from a thousand sources and synthesizes it into a new kind of visual expression that resonates with our current image saturated existence. Others have done and continue to do this too of course, but de Esteban’s mind set seems particularly structured toward consciously breaking with the past.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The large 49×39 prints are $5500 each, while the smaller 28×22 prints are $2500 each. De Esteban’s work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
Visit the complete Collector Daily review HERE