Open call group shows invite mystery. When an art exhibit is the end result of a series of previous conversations between artist and curator, the resulting work (not to disparage the process) is usually predictable. When the call goes out worldwide that a small gallery in Albuquerque, N.M. is looking for artwork for a group show with the broad theme of exploring alternative photographic and printmaking processes, the floodgates are opened and unforeseen work pours in.
Unexpected Narratives: Explorations in Photo and Printmaking at New Grounds Print Workshop & Gallery is a show just like that. It is a collection filled with names you have never heard of attached to work you’ve never seen before. Whittling down those 500-plus images into a cohesive show is not an easy task, especially when shared among several people. However, the result can sometime reveal an unexpected gem as was discovered here.
Trace by Sloane Volpe is an image that flirts with the upper zones of the photographic print. A handmade print on rag cotton, it is hard to see where the image leaves off and the irregularities of both paper and process begin. Displayed in a frame without the ultraviolet protection of glass, it is hard to say if this image will fade. Maybe it already has.
Trace invites further investigation in two ways by allowing the viewer to query both the context and content of an image with little introduction. What are we looking at here? Is that a face?
Who is this (in the image and making the image)? I stood with one of the exhibit curators puzzling over these questions while trying to recall the process of gum bicarbonate printmaking from my own memories. Is that a finger print? Is that the residue from a piece of tape? Would it help if we had answers to any of these questions? Would our appreciation deepen?
The vast quantity of information available to us about our art and the artists that make it is ever expanding but Trace is not a photograph on Instagram and there is no link available for more information. Instead, you can have a look in the gallery and make up your own thoughts about what it is all about. What better mystery could a gallery provide on a hot summer evening in Albuquerque?