I think that’s a great question, and one that’s relevant to all different types of art-making: to what extent does process matter and is it relevant to the viewer’s experience of the work? Some work is literally about the process of making it, so obviously it matters there, but generally its sort of mysterious, behind-the-scenes sausage making that we only read about in the description of materials used.
I can say that process has always been really important to me in viewing (or listening to) works of art. When I was growing up, the process that I most related in to in art and music would be described as a sort of handmade, punk, DIY aesthetic. That’s because I naturally didn’t relate to art or music that seemed to require some bloated, arcane or inaccessible technology or material, and, probably more importantly, because DIY meant that I could literally do it myself if I was talented enough — so it was “inspiring.” I would have to get a triple-necked classical electric guitar, a moog synthesizer, and years of arpeggio training if I wanted to be like Yes, but I could just get a guitar and plug it in, and practice with my friends if I wanted to be like Television (assuming talent, of course, which I didn’t have much of).
I think this is relevant to David Sherry’s work, because to me it shares that DIY aesthetic. If you look closely, there are rough edges, and they look “worked on” in a way that the CGI, silvery space skin, the-future-is-now look of photoshop just doesn’t. Some of it looks like rudimentary collage, not seamless computer photo assemblage, and that’s clearly on purpose. In movies like low budget sci-fi movies, you find yourself marveling at both the ingenuity and artistry of all the work-arounds, and I think I feel the same way with his work. Remember that despite its ubiquity in media, photoshop is an elite process in the sense that you have to be able to afford the tools — some people just don’t have access to it. The darkroom costs $12 an hour.
Also, I think using what is now an “old” process–traditional printing and capture– to create these kind of images, even though there is an arguably technically superior process available, suggests that he is moved by, or intends a connection to the past, and maybe to the history of the technology of photography itself.
One last (I promise) reason why it matters is because of it’s ability to “amaze” — to make the familiar unfamiliar. I love the feeling of being amazed when experiencing art — its an even better feeling when you realize that its handmade, and that talent is what defines the wizardry.
Sorry for the long-winded response, and thanks for responding to my comment.
FYI -- you (I think, derisively) describe David Sherry's work as "photoshop experiments." David takes pains to point out, repeatedly, in readily available interviews, on his website and elsewhere, that his photos are traditional chromogenic prints printed in the color darkroom from negatives. Every other critic I have read, in a quick google search regarding david's work, seems to know this. If you choose as a critic to comment on process, it would make sense for you to understand the process before you do it. I guess it makes for a good snarky line of copy, but I would expect that you would value accuracy over snark.
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