This exhibition of over thirty photographs by the Philadelphia artist Eileen Neff will be on view in the second floor gallery from September 7–December 16, 2007. Focusing on the past ten years, the exhibition traces a fascinating and critical shift from the camera to the computer. Five early works establish the foundations of Neff’s photo-based practice in sculpture and painting. A video debuts a new foray into the moving image. This is the second major presentation of Neff’s work at ICA. Following its debut at Artists Space in New York, her installation “The Mountain a Bed and a Chair” was presented in 1992 at ICA.
Using the camera, the computer, and the space of the studio, Eileen Neff poetically reconstructs moments experienced outside of it. Clouds move from outdoors to in. Windows appear as apertures onto completely unexpected places. The landscape doubles but does not mirror itself. A blur of motion is bifurcated by one strangely still tree. These arresting images show how unfamiliar the world can be. To cut these moments out of the flow of events and images that daily surround us, Neff uses the camera like scissors. And as the early works in this exhibition demonstrate, her practice is essentially connected to collage. “Cul de Sac” (1996) is literally a cutout: a photograph shaped like an armchair upon which is enthroned a tree. This work also conveys an essential theme in Neff’s work: the collapse between interior and exterior spaces and conditions. More recently, the use of digital technology has made the cut- and-paste aspect of Neff’s work more seamless and complex. However, she also has a knack for finding images that look constructed. The trees in the 2007 photograph “Summer (The Couple)” were seen as they appear, embracing each other in a field. Humor is a quiet by constant component of Neff’s art, in which scale and shape also play important roles. “Slipping Glimpse” (2006) is a narrow one-inch wide photograph that visually references the Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman’s famous “zips.” The writings of Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, and Henry David Thoreau are some of the other touchstones for this deeply intelligent and beautiful work.
This exhibition is organized by Ingrid Schaffner, Senior Curator, and Patrick Murphy, Director, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Ireland.
This exhibition travelled to the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Ireland in 2009.