TIF SIGFRIDS is happy to present New Color Photographs, a solo exhibition of photography by Marten Elder. A few years ago, Elder arrived in Los Angeles and commenced to digitally capture the peculiar landscape of concrete steps and plant life that blanket the geography. Like a Mars Rover expedition documenting and accumulating raw information under the blazing light of the sun, Elder has begun to reveal a dizzying array of detail that most inhabitants of the city may not have realized they are surrounded by.
Pictured here are a set of concrete steps, a patch of grass, a single cloud, and a cactus plant. Very much like documentary photographers of the past, Elder creates striking, sharply focused compositions of imagery we are familiar with and presents them in a manner that is straight forward and factual. That they are, in a sense, documents of this existing world - a truth presented through the mechanical means we are technologically equipped with in this age of cameras– is what should cause us to jump out of our skins. Is Elder suggesting we live in the same place he frames and re-presents to us? Is this the air we breathe in? By ripping the sepia-toned past from the clutches of our swiping thumbs, by scouring the tints and shades of nostalgia from our blinking eyeballs, and by shocking us with a radical spectrum of real color, Elder is revealing some kind of science fiction future that we’ll have to begin to understand as our present time.
These seemingly unbelievable images of fantastic hue and clarity are documents of the vivid world, here and now! The future, while often layered with distant whispers of anxiety and fear or outlandish possibility, is in some kind of Nietzschean logic already here, it is the present, and it is ours to look at now. And if skeptics of the day might find it easy to point to the myriad applications of magic and trickery programmed into virtually every knick-knack and device available to us, rest assured dear reader, for Elder approaches these chronicles of light and shadow with the rigor of scientific exploration.
These photographs are purely the product of ambient light being received by his camera. No filters and no exotic effects are applied to the images in the studio, as one might guess. Rather, Elder uses the various subject matters depicted as ideal settings for the vast swaths of visual information to be gathered and transmitted, the platform from where his camera might best possibly capture the range of data he seeks to study. The intensity of the information, you might say, overwhelms the subject, perhaps even rendering it irrelevant, or incidental. As he himself says, “I am photographing Los Angeles, so it makes sense that the photographs will look like Los Angeles, and the pictures probably benefit from that fact.”
Indeed, focusing on subjects that we might previously have considered mundane and monochromatic, through Marten’s fastidiousness and diligence, become something at once true to their hardboiled source and then so much more. A lawn, looked at with the aperture of the camera left agape, looked at so intensely that its green bursts into a sparkle of bright pinks and blues, is no trick. It is there and Marten and his camera are showing us a way to see it.
Marten Elder received his BA from Bard College in 2008 and recently completed an MFA at UCLA in 2013. This is the artists first solo exhibition. His work was recently included in The Poetics of Space (Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada) and will be presented in a solo exhibition at Equinox Gallery (Vancouver, Canada). His work will also be featured in Charlotte Cotton’s upcoming book Photography is Magic (Aperture, 2015).