I saw a Cheetos-bucket-plant-mirror sculpture at Regina Rex. That strange object made my day. It’s small, strange joys like this that make having a job in the arts worthwhile. But strangeness alone won’t keep me coming back to art: there has to be more than a Cheetos thrill. That’s why Corey Escoto’s Volume for Volume succeeds; the Cheetos sculpture was just one part of the artist’s mostly photography exhibition. It wasn’t the strongest work, but like any good marketing tool it got me hooked.
Mostly, the exhibition’s filled with photographs of photographs and sculptures of photographs. There’s a pyramid made up of photographs, and along the walls there’s framed “Polaroids”. The images caught on film vary from scenes of vague landscapes to close-ups of cracked bricks. They look like they’ve been Photoshopped, but the process is a bit more handwrought, involving stencils.
What’s being emphasized here is the physical nature of photography. Even that Cheetos sculpture is kind of a photograph: with a mirror underneath the bucket-Cheetos-plant object, it captures a fleeting image of the thing. It’s an uncomplicated experiment showing how photography’s all around us.
Photographers have been making any variety of “physical” photographs for some time, and it’s been evident in recent exhibitions like the Met’s Faking It: Manipulated Before Photoshop or even Derek Eller’s Thomas Barrow retrospective. Both get at the heart of digital manipulation by looking back to the past, something Escoto’s doing here, too.
The problem, though, is that while Escoto’s photographs look great—he has a keen eye for geometry, balance, and color—the exhibition has an air of familiarity. Even the New Museum had an upside-down plant sculpture in its recently closed Rosemarie Trockel show. Lisa Cooley showed several plants as part of Daren Bader’s installation in its current show, Air de Pied-à-terre. Still, Escoto does a good job at making photography seem down-to-earth, even whimsical. And for that he’s done well.