Juliètte Jongma

Lisa Oppenheim

14 Nov 2015 - 09 Jan 2016

14 November 2015 - 9 January 2016

Trees, like flowers, hills or clouds, have been contributing for centuries to an idea which is commonly called nature. Sometimes curly and low, sometimes thin and vertical, they have many names of which we generally know a dozen, depending on where one lives: olive, poplar, cedar, birch, or cypress, to name a few. It is no surprise that trees have been the source of many human practices from building houses, to
making art and fuelling fires. Graceful oaks, for example, were depicted in the Roman House of Livia, cushioned around the walls of a special room, imprinting an elegant garden of illusion. Many centuries later wood panels would be the ground where art would be practiced and, in modern times, framed.

In her new series Landscape Portraits, Oppenheim continues to work on the encounter between what is represented and the process that makes such representation possible. The methodology of the photogram excludes the mimesis of the lens as there is no camera used. Rather objects are placed directly on the surface of a light sensitive material and then exposed to light. The photograms in this exhibition are made using very thin slices of wood as photographic negatives. With this technique, birch, cedar and the olive wood present themselves both as particular trees and as unpredictable landscapes. The lines and curves imprinted on the paper are reminiscent of scientific experiments, like microscopic explorations or telescopic sightings of other cosmic bodies.

Contained within frames made by the same wood type that they depict, the Landscape Portraits produce a ghostly anthropomorphism of trees. Images of uncharted territories alternate in one’s mind into lines which may or may not indicate the age of the wood, At times the photograms are psychedelic, seemingly revealing the ‘mind' of subjects they depict in a black and white shadowy world. But what kind of subjectivity can rootless trees have? In the process of making of this project, Oppenheim realized that some of the slices of wood were ‘fake'. Instead of transporting trunks over the vast ocean, wood vendors employ several techniques of dying and cutting more readily available wood to look like olive or other ‘exotic’ species. In the photograms depicting the ‘fake’ versions, Oppenheim combined both the wood intended to be represented (cedar, for example) and the actual wood material (birch) into the frames, thus further complicating a possibility of subjectivity.

Most landscapes are experienced in a matter-of-fact fashion. They rehearse some form of construction, be it a carefully mastered garden or a painting into which one gazes. The word landscape, popularized in the 16th century, comes from the Dutch ‘landschap’. Far from being a contradiction connoting two different art historical categories, ‘landscape’ and ‘portraiture,’ Oppenheim’s Landscape Portraits produce a
hybrid and therefore different way of imagining each that is both as unique as an individual tree and as general as the species from which it emerges.
Arnisa Zeqo

Lisa Oppenheim (1975, New York, USA) is an artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is part of the group exhibition Photo Poetics in the Guggenheim museum in New York that will open on the 20th of November 2015. In January 2016 she will have a solo exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York. Oppenheim has recently had solo exhibitions at FRAC Champagne- Ardenne, Reims, FR (2015), Kunstverein in Hamburg, DE (2014),
Grazer Kunstverein, Graz, AU (2014), Lulu, Mexico City, MX (2014), Kunstverein Gottingen, DE (2013). In 2014 Lisa Oppenheim won the AIMIA| AGO Photography Prize and the Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography. Oppenheim has also participated in exhibitions at the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, Berlin, DE (2015)
Kunstverein in Hamburg, Germany, DE (2015), Kunstlerhaus: Halle fur Kunst & Medien, Graz, AU (2015), The Getty Center, Los Angeles, USA (2015), The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, IL (2014), Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, USA (2014), FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais, MASS MoCA, North Adams, USA (2014) and Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (2013).

She is part of many public collections including The Belvedere, FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais, FRAC Piemonte, FRAC Champagne-Ardrenne, The Israel Museum, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Guggenheim Museum, The Milwaukee Art Museum , and the Museum of Modern Art.

Tags: Lisa Oppenheim