The artcore journal series Installed are posts for the artcore (b)log that include written information provided by the institution, gallery, or artist’s website along with a selection of images taken by an artcore correspondent. The initiative is to provide readers with the photographer’s unique perspective of exhibitions, performances, and/or events in situ. The artcore (b)log is a platform for new series that are posted continuously, in addition to the biannual issues but do not necessarily reflect the current theme. If you are interested in participating as a correspondent for the Installed series on the artcore (b)log please contact us directly for more information.
at Stephen Wirtz Gallery | San Francisco, CA
Nov. 7–Dec. 21, 2013
from the press release
While the title references a specific place—Glass Mountain in California’s Inyo National Forest, where several of the images were made—it also conjures a mythological space, in a poetic overture that references dichotomies of endurance and ephemerality, transparency and mystery, truth and belief.
Like the early anthropological photographers, this work explores nature as other within the cultural context of wilderness and the heavens. Included in the exhibition are clusters of framed photographic images—primordial visions presented in fragments, collage, and Polaroids arrayed on the gallery walls. These works are counter-balanced by large-scale c-prints suffused with twilit inscrutability, but from which scenes of a dark spirituality slowly emerge. McFarland adroitly harnesses the symbolic power of the natural through images so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche that, at first glance, we are predisposed to accept their veracity. Behind the curtain, however, an elegant sleight of hand is at play, and closer inspection reveals impossible photographic scenarios merely masquerading as truth.
McFarland operates with alchemistic ardor, constructing Polaroid pictures from other media, and upending the visual cues and expectations associated with other photographic processes, including cyanotypes, the c-print, and gelatin silver. Recognizing that truth is a never-ending reckoning in photography, his work extends and deepens the debate, making trust an integral prerequisite to the experience. Drawing from early 19th century photographers of the American West, the works are elaborate conundrums of literalness and illusion, arguing that the camera sees differently than the eye.
McFarland creates scenes of seemingly familiar yet fantastical splendor from the most banal source material, even producing convincing images of the natural cycles of earth and the cosmos from cameraless processes, while cheekily asserting himself as our witness to apocalyptic explosions, lightning strikes, and majestic mountains and waterfalls. What is shown feels authentically observed in nature, thus revealing our powers of cognition as thrillingly corrupt.