White gallery walls can be sterile and uninviting, not to mention downright distracting. The first thing you will notice at the current show on view at Cleopatra’s is the unique installation of images on a long and low platform in the middle of the gallery. Presented this way, the series of eight black and white prints by Harsh Patel titled “New Typography,” invites the viewer to turn their back on the walls closing in. The aerial panoramic arrangement unites each work in an uninterrupted visual experience rather than dispersed between dull blank pauses bringing to mind the common phrase “it all depends on how you look at it.”
Walking toward the piece the viewer may naturally walk to the right and begin to “read” the artwork from above, similar to the way one would read the newspaper spread out on the breakfast table, from left to right working from the front to the back of the space. But some readers start from the back of the paper and work forward. There is even a chance (perhaps a suggestion) to see “New Typography” upside down by naturally walking around the piece – an angle never afforded by artwork on the wall – a view in which certain symbols take on different meaning – a 6 becomes a 9 – a blade that rested beneath a chain, threatens to descend upon it from above.
At this point the viewer has a choice to simply enjoy the piece for what it is on the surface – a visually rich collection of familiar images and symbols (Bruce Lee, digitized numbers) and modern design elements alongside and intertwined with abstract forms (ink blots, planet like spheres) and less familiar emblems (Nazi & Indian religious symbolism). The familiarity (or not) of each symbol all depends on where you are coming from. Will you be pulled along or “get stuck” on an object? Where will the images take you as you are guided around the piece?
Delving further we are given a hint in a quotation offered on the show statement: “…looking at a letter ‘A’ by itself and being able to guess at the ethos of its maker, but knowing a lot more if you see the letter ‘B’ and ‘C’ as well, and a lot more if the maker chooses and spells out a chosen word.”
The way one watches a movie, frame by frame, the story unraveling visually on a screen, “New Typography” opens the way a sentence does – starting with a letter then a word – then an entire sentence and idea – using images. Where it takes the viewer all depends on the viewer’s point of reference, whether that be the physical viewing angle or what the viewer’s own visual memory bank brings to the table – literally.
By Harsh Patel
3/2/14 — 3/30/14
110 Meserole Ave