Johalla Projects presents A l’ouest, its first solo exhibition of work by the Chicago-based artist Marzena Abrahamik. Showing a new series of photographs that considers her intimacy with friends, Abrahamik delves into different, increasingly refined parameters for making that mark a departure from earlier bodies of work that have focused on more marginalized communities. The exhibition opened on March 13 and will run through April 12, 2015.
In a wide context, A l’ouest constructs a photographic world without origin or end. All loosely autobiographical in their conception, each of Abrahamik’s images evoke more complex themes that include feminine identity and representation, collaboration between sitter and artist, and interpersonal communication. Each photograph included in the exhibition, in meandering succession, is the result and complement of its connection to the other photographs and their subjects. Simultaneously engineered and organic, they are not always immediately truthful, as Abrahamik intends to point to the broader characteristics of the group of subjects that emerge from the scenes she is simultaneously fashioning and illustrating.
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A l’ouest does indeed meander. Landscapes alternately impressive in their scope or immediate in their intimacy transition to highly stylized and posed still lifes and group portraits. Abrahamik’s skill and care in her image-making is undeniable.
A surprising number of works were included for a space of this size and the effect is one of saturation. Her photography, already vivid in its palette, is inescapable in Johalla Project’s space. It is both impossible to ignore the through lines weaving across the space, pushing against and cleaving to a myriad of narratives, or avoid falling headfirst into each large-scale tableau. The structural organization of her photographs, akin to an editorial sensibility, are directly discernible yet organic in the fluidity of their composition.
Johalla’s presentation is at once a visual pleasure but a feat to undertake. For such a small space it takes more than one go around.