Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Praise for "Certainty Principle" on

Review: Michael David Murphy explores instability of photographic truth in smart solo at Spruill

by Jason Francisco

Sometimes it seems that it could not have been an accident of history that photography and writing fused to form photography’s very name, which conceives of camera-made images as inscriptive illusions made using light, “light writings.”

It isn’t just that so many important photographers have been writers, but that photography as a medium is deeply solicitous of language. What is more natural in response to a picture than to broker it with words — to talk about it, to it, around it, to position and reposition it in terms of “stories” that it exclaims and hints at, prompts and doesn’t quite finish? Is it wrong to say that a photograph is a disquieted form of language, language displaced from grammar and usage, expelled from words so that the surfaces of the world might be made to beckon names and identities, and be reconstituted as sound and the logic of speech?

“Certainty Principle,” Michael David Murphy’s smart new exhibition at Spruill Gallery, offers a droll and philosophically rich meditation on the complications of photographic thinking as the mutual searching of words and pictures.

The show consists of four rooms, three containing photographic works and one with video — each room conceived as an autonomous statement in a larger, dialectical project. The first in Murphy’s suite of inquiries, Spruill’s front gallery contains gridded clusters of untitled, undated pictures all made in public places.

Taking on the guise of an everyman with a camera who appears anywhere and everywhere without explanation, Murphy approaches the commonplace as a field of random connections, or more strictly, random connections that seem ineluctable once made. He is a conceptualist alternately chasing and being chased by his own observational acuity, an artist for whom clear-sightedness is enigmatic. He is deeply concerned with photography as a power to heed.

Many of the photographs in this room deal in Americana and Americanism, intervening by turns gently and archly into culturally unself-conscious events and locations, both high and low. With what seems like remarkably consistent good luck, Murphy throws out vision upon vision of American normality coughing up its contradictions...

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