Though the aesthetics may be black and white, the content is anything but: Drawing Shades, on display at Worksound, offers thought-provoking pieces from an exciting group of up-and-coming artists. Much of the work uses drawing as a way to contemplate photography, inviting us to more closely examine the ubiquitous medium: What is our relationship to photos? How are they exchanged, passed down, and inaugurated into our visual lexicons?
Rebecca Ruth Peel presents a cluster of minimalist drawings, gridded and tacked to the wall, which trace figures from the party photos of her Facebook account. A snapshot of Jackie O.—her oversized sunglasses shielding her from the flood of a paparazzo's flash—is copied by Nim Wunnan and presented in a suite of stunning drawings pulled from media images. (This show is only part of his series titled Obscured—check out the other half of the handsome set, on display at Place in Pioneer Place Mall.) Wunnan's scenes are clipped from the news, and it's readily apparent; it's this assumption of documentation, despite his delicate handiwork, that makes them so curious. Adding to the mystery is the work's iridescent quality—graphite on mylar (translucent polyester paper) causes some drawings to sit on the surface and at times flicker and disappear, suggesting the vanishing act of a daguerreotype.
Occupying the main space of the gallery is Matty Byloos' The Mozarteum in Salzburg, Maybe It Was 1953, a series of framed drawings pieced into a large conglomeration; think of a Barry McGee installation, drained of color. Like many people these days, Byloos is fascinated by the anonymous abandoned family photos accumulating at flea markets. He's been collecting them, and here—with deft exchanges of positive and negative space—he traces choice silhouettes from a variety of photos, then collates the drawings to forge a singular narrative. Byloos is a writer, as well as an artist, and intends for the piece to be a "visual novel."
It's a glut of paper, and it takes time to parse out. A story never really emerges, but a closer look yields surprisingly more parallels with the San Francisco street artist Barry McGee: spray painting, stenciling, and a typography affinity. Similar to how street art attempts to reclaim public space, Byloos and these other artists attempt to reclaim, recast, and personalize the public photographs that they encounter. JENNA LECHNER