Carter Mull at Marc Foxx

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A particularly striking image recurs throughout one of the bound books in Carter Mull’s exhibition at Marc Foxx. It’s a black-and-white portrait of a man holding a 35-mm camera so that the circles of the lens and the flashbulb form an uneven pair of mechanical eyes.

It seems to be a touchstone image for the Los Angeles artist, who uses the camera — or rather, the photographic process — more like a painter than a photojournalist. The difference is accentuated in images of highly doctored spreads from this newspaper, printed on silver metallic paper and augmented with shots from Mull’s own archive.

These pictures are interspersed with a series of larger abstract prints of smudgy graphic patterns that look as if they were painted directly onto the paper. By placing these two bodies of work in dialogue, Mull positions photography at the limits of both objectivity and self-expression. While the doctored newspaper images are idiosyncratic, personal renditions of the “facts,” the abstractions are mechanically produced “expressive” gestures.

They are also quite beautiful, so much so that they tend to obscure their photographic origins, becoming a series of bright, pretty patterns. In comparison, Mull’s printed books, casually placed on benches around the gallery, are loose, chaotic collections of images, the equivalent of a painter’s sketchbooks. They provide a compelling narrative counterpoint that is lacking in the other works, turning the reproducibility of images into a series of repeated and reconfigured motifs, like a piece of music.


-- Sharon Mizota