The immediacy of digital photography be damned: Matthew Brandt still insists on taking a hands-on approach to making prints. In fact, he takes the idea of picture as art object to new levels by actually immersing his images in their subject matter.
In “New Territory,” a Denver Art Museum summer group show exploring landscape photography beyond its traditional notions, the Los Angeles artist will present a 2015 series of images he made on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and buried directly into the earth they depict. Over time, as a consequence of their contact with the soil, they degraded into alien, yet vaguely familiar, burnt-out landscapes. The show will also feature a triptych of photos Brandt shot of California’s Lake Isabella and then soaked in its waters until their emulsions dissolved and resettled into captivating, swirling pools of color.
The root of Brandt’s idiosyncratic approach was the desire to better comprehend traditional photographic processes. “When I was making conventional darkroom pictures, I realized I had no idea how silver, gelatin, and paper made a black-and-white print, or how color photography worked,”he says. “I felt compelled to understand it further, and the various materials of photography began to infiltrate my ideas.”
The experimentally minded Brandt took off from there. Since then, he has made prints with dust, various silvers, and Heidelberg blankets—the latter two on view in his current show at L.A.’s M+B gallery through March 31. He has also used human bodily fluids for his “Portraits” series, in which the images carry not only memories of friends and family but a little part of them as well. Mostly, Brandt explains, “it’s all a process of trial and error.” matthewbrandt.com