We’re expanding the scope of Book Week to include not only new and recent works, but works that are new to us; in this case, two recently acquired exhibition catalogs of work by the best-known photobooth artist working today, Liz Rideal.
The catalog for Rideal’s “Photobooth Collages” show at the Photographers’ Gallery in London in 1990 is a small, square volume that features images of Rideal’s work along with an essay about her work, her process, and her interests by David Chandler.
For the most part, the works contained in Collages are representative, with subjects ranging from a strawberry (“Spring,” in a four seasons project) to a woman holding her finger to her mouth in “Shhhh…” One of the most interesting items in the show is a nearly ten foot-long adaptation of five bars of Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen” from his 1692 autograph score. Not only are the staffs, bars, and notes recreated with abstract black shapes on a white background, but every once in awhile, Rideal’s hand is visible at the top of an eighth note or the bottom of a bar line, reminding the viewer of the scale of the piece and of its origin in the photobooth.
Eleven years later, in March of 2001, Rideal opened a show called “Stills” at Lucas Schoormans Gallery in New York City, and the catalog for that show provides a look at a very different stage in Rideal’s career.
Most of the pieces presented in the catalog are large (3′ x 4′) grids of color photostrips depicting flowers, plants, and other items on color backgrounds. Some pieces are enlargements of just a few frames from a pair of photostrips, but all of them share a sense of repetition and abstraction.
The catalog includes two essays, by Norman Bryson and Charles Darwent, that explore Rideal’s inspirations, her technique, and her significance.
“What happens, then, when the products of the photo-booth are tranposed to the domain of art?” asks Bryson. “For that is Liz Rideal’s opening move, one whose extraordinary consequence her work continues to trace. It is as though the split between official propriety and secret dissidence were now elaborated and amplified, made deeper and more complex, on the gallery walls.”