Gerard Byrne: Images or Shadows of Divine Things
Gerard Byrne’s exhibition appears to be a straight show of framed black and white photography. However, Images or shadows of divine things is only nominally an exhibition of photographs. Byrne uses photography as a conduit to express a series of highly complex ideas. Also known as a filmmaker – you might have caught Byrne’s film installation A thing is a hole in a thing it is not during Glasgow International – this exhibition continues the exploration of historical, theoretical and philosophical interests that infuse Byrne’s work.
The photographs depict various vernacular subjects: the streets of urban America; florescent advertising signage; a display of men’s shoes; the filling of a fast-food order; a man in a finned Fifties car. Many shots chime with images taken by photographic greats such as Robert Frank or Lee Friedlander, while the blunt, deadpan nature of some recall Walker Evans or Ed Ruscha. These ambiguous photographs could have been taken at any time in the last sixty years. In fact, all the images have been shot since 2005.
Through reference to Jonathan Edwards, an 18th-century American theologian, by way of ‘Art and Objecthood’, Michael Fried’s influential essay on minimalism (another sustained interest of Byrne’s), Byrne creates a connection between the concept of the photographic ‘document’, appearance and time. It is possible to just enjoy the photographs, but this multi-layered work repays an invested viewing. Don’t be put off by Byrne’s refreshingly and unashamedly intellectually complex work – the viewer can always chose how far to delve.