To kick off 2012, Grizzly Grizzly introduces the show “Duett: Alanna Lawley & Matt Giel.” The project, initially proposed and facilitated by art writer Becky Hunter, has two artists working together on a long-distance, collaborative installation in response to a location and to one another. Alanna Lawley is a British, Berlin-based artist, and Matt Giel is an American photographer living and working inPhiladelphia. The name “Duett” is German for duet, a reference to the two-person exhibition.
For roughly six months since the project was conceived, Lawley and Giel have been corresponding via Skype, GChat and e-mail in order to transform the Grizzly Grizzly space. As part of their duet, the two artists begin to get a feel for one another and their styles via e-mail in exchanges that, along with a variety of other materials, appear on a supplemental Tumblr page. While the Tumblr resource is not deemed a necessary component of the show, it is very helpful for purposes of documentation. A timeline of the artists’ thoughts and plans can be traced back chronologically through the blog, which offers insights into social media, information exchange and the creative process in general.
Both artists chose to approach the work through a photographic medium. There is a disconnect in Giel’s seascape between a physical experience — seeing a sunset or staring toward the horizon — and the representation of such an event. The vastness and depth of a magnificent view is shrunken to photo scale, yet stretched out horizontally so far that the 300-foot print stays mostly coiled on a pedestal. This lengthy photo and its unwound section humorously reflect the scope of an actual ocean, while standing only a few inches tall.
Lawley’s contribution consists of five floor-to-ceiling columnar prints. The images are appropriated from design and interior decorating magazines and seem amusingly trite in their generic feel. As with much magazine or home décor content, the depictions are highly idealized: sharp angles, clean countertops and perfect lighting. As one draws closer to the images, they are noticeably grainy and pixilated, because they have been blown up from a magazine. This notion that you are essentially standing in an issue of “Better Homes and Gardens” is as vaguely calming as it is starkly surreal. It is somewhat reminiscent of the sterile and unnerving atmosphere of a dentist’s office, but perhaps more accurately — the waiting room.
On the structural pole present in the room, Giel mimics the long photo with a heavily truncated version, which he developed on a similarly sized mock-up. The form of the column is present in the shading of the photo, and the push-pins used to hold it in place are burned into the print as well. The chemical and light-based method is in some ways a response to the primarily digital photography styles prevalent today. Anyone is capable of capturing a snapshot with their cell phone and Giel reacts by repeating the physical photographic procedure ad nauseam. Lawley’s enormous magazine clippings are likewise a mirror for design and media proliferation.
“Duett” takes a look into contemporary culture through the lenses of photography and mass production, as well as information, communication and the Internet. Part ideal and part surreal, it is a parody in some ways, but an examination of process first and foremost. Art making in the age of social media is a vast new territory, but Giel and Lawley make some real progress by exploring collaborative art transatlantic style.
Grizzly Grizzly is located at 319 N. 11th St. on the second floor, room 2D; firstname.lastname@example.org.