Isaac Layman at the Frye

Domestic details writ large.

In his first solo museum show, photographer Isaac Layman is both hugely ambitious and hugely constrained. In about two dozen images, he simply records the mundane objects in his Wallingford home. But Paradise is conceptual, not documentary. Layman crops, enlarges, and rephotographs an object until it's far from representation. You can recognize a few domestic items here—a glass pot lid, a heating grate, and one of his totemic ice-cube trays. Otherwise, the conceit behind Paradise—which, at a press preview, the artist touchingly described with an anecdote about new fatherhood, when he didn't care about or notice his newborn's sex—is the lack of recognition or differentiation. Ah, the tyranny of representation! It's a battle that's grown pretty stale over the past century. Everything in this new show is titled Untitled, and the only thing I like—besides the pot lid—I'll call "red cube." It's apparently one of the sections of Layman's beloved ice-cube trays, which recedes into a red abyss, almost 3-D in its crimson well. The edges seem crusted with color, and you can't be sure how many layers and cartridges of Epson printer ink have been embedded into the image. Elsewhere are also big rectangles of black, white, and gray, and Layman has generously donated some dirty windows from his house for us to examine. Because, you see, perception has its limits. As will your patience for these abstracted blow-ups of the quotidian, where the borders and boundaries disappear and you can no longer identify the thing being photographed. Which, again, is Layman's point—this ecstasy of not knowing. What are we looking at? Do we care? The uncertainty of Paradise is expanded and prolonged into the tedium of a conceptual morass. 

 
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