With image appropriation, consumption, and display becoming so cheap and dirty in the Blog-capital-B Age, much of contemporary photographic art is being either swallowed up or left behind by the problem of historicism. We’ve all watched the issue of an image’s life span—where it originates, goes, is/isn’t viewed—grow into a fully toothed animal following the advent of email and picture phones. Brooklyn-based Marlo Pascual seems to make pretty short work of it, though, managing both to emasculate and groom the beast with her satisfyingly terse sculptures and collages.
Terse, but, importantly, not glib. Pascual treats the subjects of her found imagery—golden age rejects sourced from ebay, thrift stores, and the bins of amateur photo clubs—with a perverted form of respect. In a way strikingly similar to that of collage artist John Stezaker, Pascual breathes new life into her dusty b-roll subjects with deceptively simple singular gestures. In her words, “the unknown actors and actress in the images are recast into new roles.” Unlike Stezaker, however, the new stage Pascual creates for her characters is the 3-dimensional world of the living; the images take on a literal corporeality, getting propped up, but also occasionally squashed or even impaled by real life.
In this way, Pascual sometimes humorously sometimes tragically re-activates not only the chronic vagueness of photographic nostalgia but also the institutions that enshrine it. Lurking beneath her sculptures’ “psychological and melancholic resonances” (again, Pascual’s words), is a nascent frustration of category. A photo is an object is a theatrical performance is a one-line character in an unscriptable play.
It is telling that her works have as much potency as flat reproductions on the internet as they do in the flesh. The work is incredibly self-aware and, like the Hollywood hopefuls represented, shyly poses for the picture frame and the visual modes it begs.
But beyond the coy academicism, it is really Pascual’s ineffable sensitivity to form and material that I find so convincing. Her impositions feel natural, almost inevitable, and yet there is a curious sense of ill-balance that pervades each piece. The way she allows her work to totter and then find its own footing is frankly mesmerizing to me. I would be very curious and excited to see what happens to her work when she tries removing the safety nets of studio imagery and a white cube gallery setting.
Marlo Pascual was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1972. She received an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia in 2007 and is currently represented by Casey Kaplan Gallery in New York.
Further info and examples of her work HERE, HERE, and HERE.