I encourage a visit to see Gefeller’s photographs. A quick look at this work calls to mind some of Gursky’s more formal synthetic imagery. Like Gursky, Gefeller digitally combines multiple photographic frames to construct a single image printed at an imposing scale. His work also shares the formal structure of Gursky. Probably unable to resist, Gefeller has examined some of the same subjects of Gursky (namely High Rise buildings). So too, Gefeller’s work may have been inspired by the photographs of Grzeszykowska & Smaga, which I had discussed last year. Geffeller has photographed empty apartment flats in exactly the same manner as they did with the occupied apartments. While influences can be seen, Gefeller advances our understanding of the medium.
Gefeller’s work has much in common with aerial photography, where subjects seen from above show an unfamiliar way of seeing. His aerial views are of the ground beneath our feet, and his most striking images show us the ground that most of us would regard as ill kept and in need of a good clean up. Take as an example the image of the floor of a race track, littered with losing tickets, horse racing papers and beverage cups. Seen directly overhead all of these details coalesce into a striking composition.
Similarly he photographs a litter of lottery tickets strewn about a cobblestone street. Not knowing what is outside of the picture area, one can imagine that the holders of the losing tickets dropped them at the source of information about winning or losing. A accumulation of tickets at the bottom of the frame dissipates as fewer and fewer tickets can be seen scattered towards the top of the frame. The extremely fine detail of the photograph allows for each ticket to be examined closely.
Beyond this investigation of flat subject matter, this artist has added a technical innovation to the work. Each image is made from hundreds of individual digital pictures, all seamlessly assembled as a grid. David Hockney employed a similar methodology using small prints aggregated to a whole image comprised of numerous prints.
Gefeller has refined the technique, by moving his camera position directly over the ground. Keeping the camera at a fixed distance from the ground, he allows his camera to function as a kind of flatbed scanner. In a film clip available at the gallery, Gefeller is seen pacing the ground, supporting a camera tripod with the legs poking into his belly like a flag bearer on parade. He marches a few steps forward, stops and makes an exposure then moves on to the next spot in a grid, always keeping the camera parallel to the ground.
This technique produces extremely detailed images, as the large prints are comprised of low magnification frames all assembled to make the larger whole.
Another image of a nursery appears to be a delicate spidery grid of trees , some with bare branches and some with brown leaves against what seems to be a snow covered ground. As all of Gefeller’s other images are taken from above, the viewer is surprised to learn that all of the trees were photographed directly looking up from the tree base.
The best images in the show are complex and surprising. An image of the Holocaust memorial is abstract to the point of bafflement, but photographs of painted pavement is conventional. Rigorous formal organization of flat subject matter in the photographic frame has oft been explored, taking inspiration from abstract painting. But in Gefeller’s best work, this pursuit is practiced to a high degree of achievement.