New York Amateurs and the forgotten images they make are the source and subject of Marlo Pascual’s installations. Something of an artists’ artist (she was named a New Artist of the Year in Rob Pruitt’s recent Art Awards ceremony, without having had a substantial show or gallery representation), she has likely won recognition because of her cool but uncynically nostalgic use of appropriation. By considering readymade material as an emotive combination of indistinct authorship and material singularity, she strikes a contemporary chord. The Tennessee-born artist, now based in Brooklyn, scours secondhand stores for genre photographs—head shots, commercial images, soft porn—which she blows up and displays. Each found black-and-white photograph is encased in a half-inch-thick layer of transparent Plexiglas, which gives it a sculptural aspect. Sometimes,
Pascual arranges the photos into simple, lackadaisical assemblages that she calls “props,” which rely primarily on found furniture. The images are all painfully elegant, and evoke the seductiveness of old Hollywood. In one photograph (all works untitled, 2009), a nude woman stands behind steamed glass—a scene from a movie descended from Psycho? A photograph of a set of crystal glasses is laser-cut and laid on the floor to look like it was dropped—or shattered by a single delicate stroke of a hammer. A joke about the fragility of the image, it is also a decidedly atmospheric work.
In the same way that for Craig Owens photography represented “our desire to fix the transitory,” a yearning that “becomes the subject of the image,” Pascual seems interested in the photograph as an object that must disappoint in its promise of permanence. Entombed in Plexi, these works recall their unknown authors by initials, creases and fingerprints from the original prints, and also in eccentric points of focus, like a subject’s long, filed fingernails. The strongest work in the show was a diptych of two men cupping their hands around their mouths to shout toward each other. The two photos were installed on adjacent walls; standing in the corner they spanned, viewers became the obstacle to their communication—or its recipient.
Pascual’s own “desire to fix” was evident in an assemblage that refers to Charles Ray’s Plank Piece I-II (1973), in which the sculptor pinned himself to the wall with a plank; Pascual replaced the trapped figure with a photograph of a hand, against which she leaned a wooden plank. In a strategy she has used before, another plank continued across the floor, creating a liminal element that one could step over but not on; mostly, it seemed like an effort to fill the room. Similarly, the props inserted domestic space into the gallery without creating the compelling suggestion of habitation.
Photo: Marlo Pascual: Untitled, 2009, 12-piece laser-cut C-print, approx. 50 by 60 inches; at Casey Kaplan.