September 2015: Rodrigo Valenzuela | Blake Turner

In Blog, Photography, Reviews By by Ken Aschliman On September 23, 2015

Rodrigo Valenzuela, Conceal Market No. 1, 2015, Archival pigment print, Edition: 1 of 3 + 1 AP

Shrouded beneath tarps, strung up with rope, or supported by tables, brick platforms, or hooks are the items photographed in Rodrigo Valenzuela’s Conceal Market. The images lining the walls of the gallery’s first room depict nearly colorless warehouse-like rooms, columned blank expanses. The focus of each numbered picture, however, is something hidden. Studying each photograph, the lack of movement and activity in an image identified as a market provokes questions. What are we meant to see in the stillness of these “behind-the-scenes” images? Are the concealed subjects of each photograph waiting for use, to be sold, or to be shipped elsewhere? Or are the items tucked away in blankets, pressed into buckets, and resting in their restraints high above the floor to be discarded? Valenzuela’s photographs continually refer us to a purpose explained in his statement, which is also on display at the exhibition. He writes, “My work serves as an expressive and intimate point of contact between the broader realms of subjectivity and political contingency.” With this thought in mind, perhaps gallery visitors will consider the obscured subjects in each photograph and how much, or how little, we really “see” of the people and processes of parts of our lives we take for granted, a market, for instance.


Rodrigo Valenzuela, Conceal Market No. 7, 2015, Archival pigment print, Edition: 1 of 3 + 1 AP

Valenzuela describes the focus of his photographs as not what is sold at markets as much as the market is a place for trading. He says, “I think there is something mysterious in the way that each person decides to protect their goods, the way that they rescue the sculptural value of what they are offering.” He explains that in much of his work there persists a feeling of alienation of people or materials. “I have to isolate elements in order to engage with it. Looking at Conceal Market I see that this process was already done by the owner of the stand and with a particular canvas, unique shape. The process of alienation and individuation happens in a very still way.”


Blake Turner, Constructure, 2015, Wood, stain, paper, hand-processed charcoal, lights and video

A grainy whirling sound beckons visitors into the second room. The room exhibits the work of Blake Turner titled Constructure. Turner introduces his installation and its linear theme in an engaging, command-like manner. His statement reads, “Draw a line across an endless page. The pen touches the page, moving along continuously, seemingly infinite. [...] You are not traveling the same historical path but are drawing just next to it, surveying it, parallel to it. From here, observation is the tool for logic, poetry, guilt, abstraction, anger, prescription, diagnosis…”


The first piece is something of a ladder, positioned in a corner space of the room. Two rails of wood nearly converge at an illuminated peak, the space between them shrinking. Only twice are they conjoined horizontally. One small cut of wood, almost like a step, bridges the rails near the floor, while another connects them up near the very top, just where they stop running and rest against the walls. As the two parallel rails stretch upward toward one another, playing with perception of size and space, their movement inward halts. Though they are linked, they never intersect. The pinnacle is simply crowned with the gleaming glow of a light bulb. Poised at the bottom of what looks like it should act as a ladder, you wonder how to make the climb when there is only empty space and no tangible steps. Maybe this structure suggests the frustrations, inspirations, and complexities of having to construct our own paths toward a place or a self we desire.


Past the wooden structure, the focus shifts to another project, though this time the lines are infinitely connected and drawn with charcoal Turner made himself. Suspended in the center of the room is a large roll of parchment, the center expanded on the floor. There, Turner’s narrative is opened up visually. A black hole gapes from the center of the parchment, flanked by branches of the charcoal used to create it. Before the Constructure installation, Turner had proposed a project for which he would drag a charred tree through the city. “I am influenced by how history and time function within the urban landscape,” he says. “But of course I could never move the tree into the gallery because the doors are too small. And so I would have to cut up the tree and char it all. This is where I began to think materially and depart somewhat from the dragging.” Additionally, Blake explains that processing the materials himself allowed for pieces of charcoal that would “create irregular marks, break during the process, or scratch the surface of the paper.” He feels that this choice adds a sculptural element to the drawing.


Blake Turner, Constructure (detail)

Supplementing the piece is a video, the source of the continuous, circular cadence that first ushered visitors into the room. Turner refers to his dragged tree idea in explaining how the video is not meant to be simply illustrative of his process but a part of the installation. He says, “Originally, I was thinking about the tree as a clock, its rings marking time. The Weight [Turner’s original proposal] was a metaphorical gesture much like the video. The video begins in the middle of a drawing as a reflection on how we are randomly born into a landscape that is constantly changing. There are marks made before the video begins; however, we can only see the traces of them. We are unable to access that portion of time.” On the video you can see a hand fluidly moving a piece of charcoal around and around a page. The video is cut so that it begins in the middle of the drawing. “The implication is that we cannot access the beginning; a process is already underway and we are viewing it from some point in time,” Turner says. “Even the end, at least personally, never arrives. The video and the drawing could continue forever.” It’s clear that for Turner, the process, and not only the end result, is an important part of the story he wants to tell.


By Ashley Gonzalez