STUDIO VISIT: ETHAN GREENBAUM
there seems to be a shared interest among many young artists right now (particularly painters and sculptors) in referencing/appropriating everyday street materials in their work. it’s a familiar and long-standing impulse, for sure, but one which has picked up some steam again these past few years, resulting in a lot of really interesting work.
among those making strong efforts along these lines is brooklyn-based artist Ethan Greenbaum, who replicates industrial materials (cinder blocks, cement slabs) and urban surfaces (cracked sidewalks, tarred streets, chipped brick walls) as a means of highlighting the aesthetic potential of his surroundings.
his most recent work, consisting largely of low-relief photographs and plexiglass prints, is particularly interesting for its resistance to easy categorization: combining elements of photography, sculpture, painting, and digital manipulation, these pieces do a nice job of blurring the lines between abstract and figurative, 2D and 3D, etc.
having now seen these works up close, i will say that its pretty difficult to get a sense of what they’re about based solely on documentation shots. it might help to read up first on his process:
“The works often begin as digital photographs taken by the artist in his travels throughout the city. This prosaic imagery is then transcribed through various abstracting filters including digital editing, flatbed printing and vacuum forming.
In his series of vacuum-formed photos of sidewalks, Greenbaum infiltrates the ubiquitous ground plane with unexpected strangeness and malleability. Actual size reproductions of sidewalk are printed on translucent plastic, which is then formed around broken ceiling tiles. The resulting low relief panels enact a series of inversions, where the outdoors is brought in, background becomes foreground and the horizontal plane becomes vertical.
In the plexiglass works, Greenbaum again recasts the visual peripheries of the urban landscape. Derived from a composite photo of a rock wall outside the artist’s studio, the work is printed on a transparent acrylic panel. The mortar connecting the flagstones has been digitally deleted, and visible between the stones is a high-resolution scan of Formica patterning. This double-sided overlapping of textures paradoxically creates spatial illusions and depth between the layered flatness of the two surfaces.”