VALERIE MERAINS AT PIEROGI, BROOKLYN, NY

 

Valerie Merians, UNTITLED, cibachrome print

 


Valerie Merains‚ photographs are slick like travel posters. Some of the
scenes appear to be tropical environments with luscious colors and succulent
plants. In reality, these succulents are photographs of Plasticene blobs
sitting in front of brightly colored (painted) backgrounds in Merains‚ studio.
The plant - figures and backgrounds are vibrantly colored with either a
medium-red object against a green field, or a purple object against a light
purple background, or in one case red-hot forms against a bright red field.
Because all of the photographs are Untitled, viewers can associate the
pictures loosely to landscape or to gaseous outer space, or maybe even heaven
or hell.


Valerie Merians‚ interest "is in the intersection of painting, photography,
and sculpture" and these photographs clearly represent that aim without too
much weight to any of the mediums. There seems to also be an attempt to cover
different genres. Some of the works seem to have a figure in the landscape,
others are more straightforward landscape pictures, and yet another is
reminiscent of still-life -- a picture of what appears like a giant chili
pepper with an intense sunset in the background. The color and soft-focus of
the backgrounds contributes to the painting aspect, the Plasticene figures and
their fingerprinted texture reveals the sculptural aspect of the work, and
then her scenes are documented by the final photograph.

Upon close inspection the organic forms in the foreground reveal Merains‚
fingerprints and this creates a strange tension in the space because these
Plasticene blobs could also be seen as monumental growth. There is a horizon
line in each photograph that contributes to the large appearance of the blobs
and helps to make the space appear as if it recedes dramatically. The work of
Tanguy comes to mind when looking at this work. Strange forms as silhouettes
against serene horizons are critical elements in both Merains‚ photos and
Tanguy‚s paintings. Merains‚ photographs are also quite close to Alexander
Ross‚s photo-realistic paintings of his Plasticene-model blobs. When I first
saw Merains‚ photographs I thought they were the work of Ross. This is meant
as a compliment because Alexander Ross is making some very good paintings.
Ross‚s renderings of his plastic model come out looking very shiny and smooth
although the paint surface is brushy, and Merain‚ photos come out clear and
sharp although the surfaces of the objects in front of the lens have textures.

Just like a kid playing with gum to see what she can make, there is a fresh
and playful nature to these works. In addition Merains is skilled at keeping
the context open in each piece and viewers can really see whatever they want.
And whether the individual photographs are indicative of still-life or
landscape, it is important to note that each piece could be a couple of
different things. Merains‚ way of working (between mediums) seems to give her
a personal freedom within the large current trend of constructed landscape
photography.


Lee Stoezel

New York, New York

2003


Valerie Merians, UNTITLED, cibachrome print