Miriam Böhm: At On

Review

Miriam Böhm: At On

By Danica Willard Sachs April 14, 2015

The conceptual artist Jan Dibbets made his first Perspective Corrections in 1967, around the same time that he was experimenting with optical illusions in sculpture and painting. When photographing some of his artworks, the artist realized that the viewpoint of the camera could transform the shape of the object, removing the simultaneity of perspectives inherent in viewing a sculpture and fixing it in time and space.1 Dibbets came to make this metamorphosis a focal point of his practice, producing images such as Perspective Correction, My Studio I, 2: Square with 2 Diagonals on Wall (1969) that underscore the ambiguity of depth in the flat plane of the photograph. For At On, her third show at Ratio 3, Miriam Böhm has pushed the limits of her studio-based photography practice in the vein of Dibbets, creating confounding, abstract, minimalist images of intersecting geometric forms and planes. She has also translated her photographs into her first sculptural works, which likewise perplex.

The artist’s first foray into sculpture—the series Mutual (2015)—occupies the rear portion of the main gallery. With pedestals painted white to match the gallery walls, the sculptures appear to hover in midair when viewed from the entrance in the slanting afternoon light. Atop each pedestal perches an object composed of intersecting glass planes framed in dark walnut; photographs of wood grain printed on vinyl are adhered to the surface of the glass. Unlike Dibbets, who looked to photography as a means to eschew the multiple viewing angles demanded by sculpture, Böhm embraces the changing perspectival experience created when one moves around her objects. In Mutual I (2015), the printed vinyl strips form a pair of rhombuses positioned at perpendicular angles across the glass panels. Because the glass panes are clear and we can see through one form to the other—and also because the walnut frame holding the panels matches that of the printed vinyl—the result is a layering of lines that, when viewed head-on, appears flat and two-dimensional, like a drawing. As one moves around the work, however, the rhombuses shape-shift as the angles of intersection change.

As in her earlier works, for At On Böhm repeatedly re-photographed arrangements of simple materials, layering multiple exposures to create the finished work. The result is a surreal dimensionality, with lines and planes that intersect in unusual ways, suggesting a simultaneous depth and flatness that refuses to resolve neatly into one or the other. She is reticent to describe the specifics of her process, but we do know that Böhm sometimes draws or paints on the photographs during the early stages of a work in order to emphasize a particular line or angle jutting out of the picture plane. Equally III (2015), for example, is a deceptively simple photograph of two folded pieces of white board against a black background. The boards appear to intersect at their creased edges, with the plane of one protruding outward toward the viewer. Closer examination, however, reveals that the edges of the boards are highlighted in white paint. This draws attention to certain impossibilities in the intersections and layers; one plane “ought” to be receding behind the other, and yet it isn’t. In Böhm’s photograph, shadows and lines don’t reconcile into a conclusive depth of perspective or point of view.

Unit I (2013) creates a similar kind of visual dissonance, as a constructed backdrop of textured brown panels becomes a stage for Böhm’s transformations. To make this work, the same panel was photographed and moved multiple times, creating a layered image with a confusing transparency. As in the Equally works, it demands a slowed-down reading, as our eye tries to reconcile the contradictory depths and dimensionalities. Like Dibbets’s work, Böhm’s photographs challenge the coherence of the photograph as a single object captured at a single moment in time. 

Miriam Böhm: At On is on view at Ratio 3, in

San Francisco

, through April 25, 2015.

Notes

  1. For more on the Perspective Corrections, see Jan Dibbets, R. H. Fuchs, and M. M. M. Vos, Jan Dibbets: Essays (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1987).

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