Ethan Greenbaum / First Surface
April 29 – June 1, 2018

Ethan Greenbaum

Like any photographer, Ethan Greenbaum asks that, first, we pay attention. When we drift through city streets on our way to work, or out to drinks with friends, or through a battery of galleries, we do it like distracted ghosts, only half present. Maybe we are in the thrall of the tractor beam glow of a smart phone, or we are thinking about a particularly delicious sandwich, or are gripped with anxiety about the shambolic state of the world. Whatever the case, we don’t really look. We don’t notice the way that cracks skitter across the surface of the sidewalk, overlook the way bricks are mortared, or tiles laid, or the way that elegant holes are jigsawed out of chipboard construction hoarding to accommodate unruly standpipes. Greenbaum has a keen eye for these lost swatches of the urban fabric, and he captures them with his camera.

 

Ethan Greenbaum

Ethan Greenbaum

But Greenbaum is not strictly, or really even principally, a photographer. Initially trained as a painter, he now avails himself of a number of industrial processes – some dated, some bleeding edge – to materialize and embellish the images he captures on the street, producing works that are resolutely hybrid; they are neither photography, nor sculpture, nor painting, but often some stew of all three. The works in this exhibition, for instance, start as iPhone snaps, but are manipulated in Photoshop to kick their colors into scorching, acidic registers. The resultant images are printed on sheets of plastic using a high-tech flatbed printer, and then melted into low reliefs on a vacuum-forming machine in a Midtown Manhattan shop that fabricates sets for television. But unlike the ersatz brick walls and dead end doors that the shop usually produces, the topographies of Greenbaum’s works, which are made from a motley collection of building materials that he molds his plastic prints atop of, don’t always conform to the images that he prints on them. Instead, the vacuum forming adds extra compositional flourishes – cracks, indents, even what look like brushstrokes – that playfully tug on the eye, muddying the distinction between the photograph and the relief, the depicted and the actual. They gently provoke the question: what is real?

 

Ethan Greenbaum

Ethan Greenbaum

This ontological confusion is, of course, a standard-issue gripe about all photography, now that is has been transformed into an endlessly manipulable stream of zeros and ones. But what did photography ever tell us, anyway? Looking at Greenbaum’s newest work, I recall the most evocative description that Charles Peirce gives for his fussy, academic term “indexicality”, which is often used to describe the medium’s now-outdated relation to the truth: an index, he says, is like a footprint; it is a direct record of presence. Similarly, like sand impressed with the passage of strolling beachgoers, Greenbaum’s vacuum forms bear traces of the material substrates onto which they were molded. However, this play with impression and indexicality reads as a kind of wry joke. Both the building materials used as the substrates and the riotously colored images of the built landscape that are molded upon them seem to announce nothing more than their stubborn, blank existence. They are what they are. But look a little closer: many of the images sport the recondite glyphs that are sprayed on walls and sidewalks, that instruct the initiated about the tangle of infrastructure concealed behind and beneath them. Both literally and metaphorically, we are being directed to consider the complex life that exists beneath surface appearance (of buildings, of images, and, by extrapolation, of people). This calls to mind the famous slogan that was painted across the walls of Paris during the student uprising of 1968, which spoke so poetically of the possibility that lays in wait behind the scrim of the ordinary: “Beneath the paving stones, the beach!”

– Chris Wiley

Ethan Greenbaum

Ethan Greenbaum (b. 1979, Tom’s River, US) lives in Queens, New York. He has had exhibitions at Super Dakota, Brussels; Pact Galerie, Paris, Halsey McKay, East Hampton, US, and The Suburban, Chicago. He has exhibited in group exhibitions at Palazzo Fruscione, Salerno, Italy; Luce Gallery, Turin; Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York; Hauser & Wirth, New York; Marlborough Chelsea, New York; and Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, U.S. He received his Master’s in Fine Arts at Yale University under the direction of Peter Halley. First Surface is the artist’s first solo exhibition at Lyles & King.

 

Ethan Greenbaum / First Surface
April 29 – June 1, 2018 / Lyles & King
Please visit the exhibition page >

PRIZM Art Fair 2020
December 1–21, 2020
PRIZM Art Fair presents artists and galleries across the African continent, the Caribbean and Americas, exploring the intersections of...
+
The Shadow Pandemic
Violence against Women in Times of Covid
This other virus, which has existed for a far greater period of time and whose rate of contagion is...
+
New East Photo Prize 2020
Winner & Finalists Announced
Calvert 22 has announced the winner and the shortlisted finalists for this year’s New East Photo Prize celebrating contemporary...
+
30 Under 30 Women Photographers / 2020
Online Exhibition
For its 11th Edition, Artpil is proud to announce the exhibition of 30 Under 30 Women Photographers 2020, with...
+
CURE (the Work) / Sam Lewitt
Oct 4, 2020 – Jan 3, 2021
Sam Lewitt retools the economic transition of the demolition of the Ford Genk. This dispersed presentation at Z33 raises...
+
ARTPIL / Prescription .117
Brave New World
In a black corrugation rifling the bitter recesses, dying or living, born to the pitiless cinder in a posture...
+
I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating
Alec Soth
This exhibition comprised of large scale portraits and interiors focuses on Soth’s depiction of the individual, posing questions about...
+
30 Under 30 Women Photographers / Open Call
2021 Submissions Open
Announcing the call for entries for the 12th annual 30 Under 30 Women Photographers. The 2021 group will round...
+
PRIZM Art Fair 2020
December 1–21, 2020
PRIZM Art Fair presents artists and galleries across the African continent, the Caribbean and Americas, exploring the intersections of...
+
The Shadow Pandemic
Violence against Women in Times of Covid
This other virus, which has existed for a far greater period of time and whose rate of contagion is...
+
New East Photo Prize 2020
Winner & Finalists Announced
Calvert 22 has announced the winner and the shortlisted finalists for this year’s New East Photo Prize celebrating contemporary...
+
30 Under 30 Women Photographers / 2020
Online Exhibition
For its 11th Edition, Artpil is proud to announce the exhibition of 30 Under 30 Women Photographers 2020, with...
+
CURE (the Work) / Sam Lewitt
Oct 4, 2020 – Jan 3, 2021
Sam Lewitt retools the economic transition of the demolition of the Ford Genk. This dispersed presentation at Z33 raises...
+
ARTPIL / Prescription .117
Brave New World
In a black corrugation rifling the bitter recesses, dying or living, born to the pitiless cinder in a posture...
+
I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating
Alec Soth
This exhibition comprised of large scale portraits and interiors focuses on Soth’s depiction of the individual, posing questions about...
+
30 Under 30 Women Photographers / Open Call
2021 Submissions Open
Announcing the call for entries for the 12th annual 30 Under 30 Women Photographers. The 2021 group will round...
+