Microscope Gallery is very pleased to present Phototropism, the fourth solo exhibition of works by Allison Somers at the gallery, featuring new works relating to the artist’s long-term interest in and intimate observations of trees, flowers, weeds and other vegetation encountered in her daily life or cultivated in the artist’s personal garden at her residence in the countryside outside of Paris.
Together the silver gelatin photographs, installation, video and other works in Phototropism – a term referring to the tendency of plants to grow either towards (positive phototropism) or away from (negative phototropism) sources of light – direct attention to the abundance of plant life around us and the resulting and often conflicted relationships that arise, including our ability to appreciate and care for nature at the same time that many everyday activities serve to destroy it.
The concept of duality is a recurring theme of the works that is addressed most overtly in the 2016 photographic series “Palms”. Somers includes within a single framed work both a negative/solarized photograph (left side) and a positive photograph (right side) of the identical image of California fan palms —the only species of palm native to Western North America — in Palm Canyon, Palm Springs, California. This artist’s pairing of images allows for a more complete view of the picture, with subtle details surfacing on one side that are not visible on the other.
The video Phototropism (2018, b&w, silent, 2 minutes 44 seconds) is inspired by the 19th century chronographic studies of plant growth by German botanist Wilhelm Pfeffer and is made with re-workings of a section from a botanical documentary showing the ways plants alter their shape and position in response to gravity and light.
An installation “The Artist’s Garden”, begun in 2013, finds the artist examining the artistic trope referenced in the work’s title. In the installation stacks of 4 x 6 inch color c-prints contain images of plants taken by Somers over many years in the settings in which she discovers them including city streets, parks, forests, fields, highways, and private gardens as well as her own. The photos — shot with both analog and digital cameras and for various purposes including as formal compositions, reference snapshots for the creation of her garden, and for documentation of the garden as it develops — are printed from a digital archive the artists maintains and sorts according to criteria such as year, season, botanical family, personal association, location, etc. The video component of the installation consists solely of scrolling text of the scientific names of the plants she has identified to date. Ultimately, Somers in this work challenges the viewer to regard as an artwork not only its rendition as an installation but also the actual garden itself.
Among other works on view is a series titled “Herbarium” of archival inkjet prints featuring images of preserved specimens from her garden, printed to scale. Although resembling photograms and early examples of photogenic drawing, practices the artist has engaged with for a decade and applied to multiple mediums, the works are created through manipulations of the artist’s digital photographs and offer detail and sense of depth beyond that obtained through the traditional methods.
Allison Somers was born in Los Angeles and is currently based in Paris, France. Somers is recognized for her work with early photographic techniques, processes, chemicals applied to photographic paper — as well as other materials such as tree bark, rope, and roof tiles, among others — and for her dye on fabric work, video and installations. In New York, her work has also appeared at White Box, Participant Inc., Emily Harvey Foundation, 80WSE Gallery, and Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, among others, as well as at Futura Center for Contemporary Art (Prague, Czech Republic), Fondation D’Enterprise Ricard (Paris, France), Galerie Joseph Tang (Paris, France), Galerie Praz-Delavallade, (Paris, France), and Balzer Protects, Basel Switzerland (solo). Somers’ work has been reviewed in publications including Artnet, Artspace, L Magazine, Hyperallergic, San Francisco Quarterly, Sculpture Magazine, and Break Thru Radio, among others. Somers received a BS from New York University in 2003 and an MFA from New York University in 2010.
Exhibition Date: September 14 – October 21, 2018