Substance of Density 1918-1948
March 6 – October 16, 2020
Yossi Milo Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new camera-less photographs by Alison Rossiter. Substance of Density 1918-1948 presents a chronology of assemblages made from expired photographic papers in the artist’s collection. Through rigorous grouping and presentation, Rossiter constructs a photographic tonal narrative through three specific decades of the 20th century. The exhibition opened on Friday, March 6 with a reception for the artist and book signing from 5:30 – 8:00pm. The show has been extended through Saturday, October 17. This is the artist’s third exhibition at the gallery.
The archive of expired photographic papers collected by Rossiter is the resource for her work. Since 2007 she has gathered over two thousand packages of paper dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, many of which have an expiration date stamped on the product box or envelope as a marker of quality assurance backed by the manufacturer. Even in dark storage each package of paper reacted to its surroundings over time. No matter what the light sensitive silver gelatin materials endured through their dormant years, they still respond to chemical development. Physical damage, mold, and atmospheric pollution form latent images in the photographic emulsion coating on the papers and become visible when processed in a darkroom. The artist considers these effects to be subject matter. The resulting photographic tones are evidence of experience and records of time.
Substance of Density 1918-1948 involves the period when art movements responded to the social, political, and intellectual upheaval across nations after World War I. Dadaism, Surrealism, Suprematism, and Constructivism flourished. Influential art education thrived at the Bauhaus in Germany from 1919 through 1933 and Vkhutemas, the Russian state art and technical school in Moscow, operated from 1920 through 1930.
Each of the assembled pieces in Substance of Density 1918-1948 is made with prints manufactured from the time period noted in its title. The assemblages are composed of the rarest samples of expired paper from the artist’s archive, with emphases on the time in history that each sheet of paper represents. The expiration dates pinpoint their locations on a timeline and coexist with events in world history. For example, in 1919, the Bauhaus is founded in Weimar, Germany; the New York Wall Street Crash begins a worldwide economic crisis in 1929; the Summer Olympics are held in Berlin, Nazi Germany in 1936; in 1945, the Second World War ends.
In addition to the assemblages, Substance of Density 1918-1948 includes three prints from a large roll of Gevaert Gevaluxe Velours paper from the 1930s that was given to Rossiter by the Belgian artist Pierre Cordier who, in turn, was gifted this paper by his friend the Belgian photographer Joseph Cayet (1907 – 1987).
The exhibited works reflect Rossiter’s chronological and thematic continuation of Compendium 1898-1919, twelve sets of gelatin silver prints included in Anna Atkins Refracted: Contemporary Works at New York Public Library, from September 28, 2018 – January 6, 2019, and subsequently acquired by the library for their permanent collection. A new monograph, Compendium 1898-1919, featuring all twelve works from the series reproduced at actual scale, was reelased in summer 2020, co-published by Radius Books/New York Public Library/Yossi Milo. Rossiter’s first monograph, Expired Paper (2017, Radius Books/Yossi Milo), was nominated for Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation’s 2017 PhotoBook of the Year.
Alison Rossiter’s photographs are in the collections of major public institutions, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; New York Public Library; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Art Institute of Chicago; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Rossiter was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1953 and currently lives and works in the New York City metropolitan area.