Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Rollout, the first solo exhibition by Cologne-based artist Alwin Lay in Los Angeles. Spanning photography, video, sculpture, and print, Lay’s conceptual and often humorous works investigate how image production and in particular photography have influenced our perception and understanding of reality. Lay does so by creating impossible situations and paradoxical actions that despite their familiarity only exist within the image. Through humor and acts of defamiliarization Lay’s works challenge the viewers expectations.
Rollout comprises photographic, video, and sculptural works created between 2015 and 2018. The title is a play on words referring to the market release of 16mm film, which was introduced in 1923 by the film industry to create a new format by literally splitting 35mm film in half. Lay picks up this fact in the exhibition poster, depicting a roll of film strangely divided in two. Although the ideas and puns behind the works quite literally reveal themselves in each piece, the construction of the image is indecipherable and remains hidden. This break of indexicality negates any form of documentary so often attributed to the photographic medium. Lay instead uses view camera and compositing techniques to propose alternative relations between the objects and actions performed. What we see is not one moment in time—”a moment in the continuum” as John Berger would say—but the result of many invisible decisions and actions of various moments precisely aligned. Hence, time is suspended or compressed.
Adding to this suspension, the works are set against seemingly neutral backgrounds, detaching them from a particular place. Still, the white walls, grey floors, and monochrome black backgrounds directly reference the white cube or black box; spaces that are not actually neutral but laden with values and expectations. On the one hand, Lay’s works mimic the isolated art object in a white cube space, and on the other, these objects profess an agency of their own, dripping, spinning, gushing, burning, floating, and defying gravity as they please.
By exaggerating and misusing the various techniques and materials photography has to offer, Lay investigates what makes the medium distinct both as a technology and an art form. Push Pin in Paper (Fujicolor Crystal Archive) (2018) is one such example for how he manages to collapse image and object. In this sculptural work, layers and layers of Diasec—a transparent acrylic sheet conventionally used in advertising to cover a photograph and keep it in place while enhancing pop and color—weigh down an underlying image depicting a push pin piercing a piece of undeveloped photo paper. The material absurdity of this acrylic tower resonates in the image while it is simultaneously distorted, almost unrecognizable. It is this play of perception, this construction of reality that invites the viewer to double back and take another look.
Text by Lisa Long