Josh Brand, Untitled, 2007
Josh Brand’s photographic images often bear the characteristics of abstract painting—layering saturated colors and geometric patterns to amplify optical effects or paring back a composition until nothing but the fade of erasure and rudimentary mark-making remains. Frequently working in the darkroom without a camera or film, Brand employs everyday objects and semitransparent materials to partially occlude brief exposures of light on to sensitized paper in building up the depth, shape, and surface impression of his compositions. An expert understanding of color ratios and generational printing techniques further contributes to Brand’s use of the photogram as receding planes frequently alternate with incisive lines in evoking architectural and engineering motifs reminiscent of László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) and El Lissitzky (1890–1941), while more organic forms and shapes recall the collages and canvases of Hans Arp (1886–1966), Lucio Fontana (1899–1968), and Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923), among others.
Providing contrast to this improvised yet highly formal approach are fragmentary images culled from Brand’s daily life, including photographs of an ongoing collection of artifacts and mementos that occasionally appear abstracted into the layers of his darkroom images, negative-based images that reflect Brand’s commitment to photography as a way of perceiving and signifying the everyday alongside the ethereal. Extending to outtakes from ongoing relationships with people and objects in partially recognizable contexts, recent images include a portrait of a friend reclining with his arms covering his face, elbows extended toward the camera in awkward acknowledgment. Another recent image, Bed (2009), shows the narrow divide between Brand’s domestic life and studio practice, between living space and the space of composition; in the frame a diffuse fragment of amber light from the street outside his apartment reflects through a curtain along the wall of a dimly illuminated room, delineating the subtle yet shifting boundary that exists between the artist’s own bedroom and makeshift studio, between the oneiric and the habitual, the subconscious and the act of making. Referring as it does to Robert Rauschenberg’s Combine Bed (1955), Brand’s abstracted image of the quotidian serves as an indirect self-portrait—occupying the narrow gap between art and life.