Iannoli and the Sublime

On June 10th I attended the opening of a solo exhibit by the San  Francisco-based artist and educator Ivan Iannoli at the Bass & Reiner Gallery in the Minnesota Street Project. (I was a student in Ivan’s class The Taken and the Made, which you can read more about in this blog here, here and here.)

One of my favorite installations is shown in the featured image at the top of this post. The photograph on the right is typical of images in this exhibition. Appropriated and/or original photographs and other objects are combined with painting in a sculptural structure, yet within a frame. Elements of the image are observed through other elements. The method of their construction is purposely “somewhat overt”, or as Iannoli describes it, this is “photography as a site of performance”.

Uniquely in this exhibit, this image is paired with another. The image on the left is the famous Wanderer above a Sea of Fog, by the German Romantic painter Caspar  David Friedrich, painted circa 1818. Iannoli downloaded the image from somewhere on the internet, desaturated it, cropped and printed it to the exact same dimensions as the image on the right. As Iannoli explained, this doubly indirectly references the man in the painting’s experience of the sublime. It connects with the sublime being expressed through the Hubble telescope photo of a distant nebula in the image on the right. The  nebula also can not be experienced directly, but only through the intervention of the sophisticaled technology of the Hubble and, in this instance, Iannoli’s construction.

In astronomy the name “nebula” was originally given to any diffuse object observed in space. Nebula is latin for “cloud”, making a direct, literal connection between the two photographs. Robin Kelsey expands on this concept in his book Photography and the Art of Chance. Describing Friedrich’s (and the Romantics’, generally) use of fog and clouds, Kelsey states “vapor was a way of putting meaning beyond the reach of narative and proposition, of making it something suggested rather than shown, felt rather than comprehended.”[1]

In short, sublime.

[1] Kelsey, Robin, Photography and the Art of Chance,(2015) Belknap Press, p110

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