Liz Deschenes: "The Material of Photography Is Really Rich. It's Ever-Changing."

While entering the Walker Art Center's Medtronic Gallery, you may notice something that usually isn't there: natural light. For Liz Deschenes's new exhibition, the coverings on the east-facing windows have been removed, allowing light from the outside to work its magic on a series of photograms that will change over the course of the year-long show.

"The space is a perfect viewfinder," says Eric Crosby, associate curator at the Walker. 

Set up on slight angles in rectangular, self-standing architecture, the photograms are lined up near the wall on the opposite side of the entrance. When you first walk in, all you see are the blue rectangles. Walk around to the other side of them, however, and the work appears to be a line of mirrors. The reflections are actually created from photo paper that has been exposed to moonlight and then developed, creating a blurry mirror-like effect.  

Deschenes's work deconstructs the process of photography, opening up the mechanisms for creating an image. "I want people to consider what they are looking at," she says. "The material of photography is really rich. It's ever changing. I think that because of depiction, people can often take what's printed and not think about all the materials that were used to construct what they're looking at." 

Similarly, Deschenes uses references to the history of where the exhibition takes place as a way to raise awareness of their experience. Titling the work Gallery 7, Deschenes refers to the original name of the Medtronic Gallery. That was the room's name in 1973, when Lucy Lippard curated a group show, called "7,500," featuring work by 26 female conceptual artists. According to Deschenes, the exhibition was in response to someone telling Lippard that there were no female conceptual artists. "I can't do the work I do if those 26 women didn't do the work that they did, and the subsequent generation hadn't done the work they do," she says. 

In addition to the title of the exhibition, Crosby says Deschenes references the earlier group show through the look of the free-standing panels, which recall a series of cards that were published for Lippard's "7,500." According to Crosby, the panels have the same proportions as the cards, and in their lined-up presentation appear as "cards unfolding in space." 

Another historical reference is Deschenes's decision to install a picture-rail hanging system along the walls, which were used in the Walker's now-demolished 1927 building. "I wanted people to be aware of where they are," she says. "I think too often people are passive about their experiences, so it's a way of grounding people." 


"Liz Deschenes: Gallery 7"

Through November 22, 2015

Walker Art Center

Free with museum admission