Through November 23, 2019
The installation that makes up Cody Trepte’s show “By Any Possibility,” in which photo-meets-drawing-meets-painting, evades categorization and accessibility. One end pulls from the conceptual, while the other pulls from the visceral; seduction is cut with the analytical. The most appealing works — built-up layers made from printer-toner transfers and ballpoint pen ink — are a complex hybrid of op art and photography. And they’re mesmerizing. Framed bleach-on-paper works which (very loosely) approximate stars, along with a few photo prints, bear a drier, more strategic sensibility. These effectively cool down the installation as a whole. In his statement, the artist describes investigating time, in particular its relative fixedness in relation to chance. He also shares that the thrust of this body of work originated with several personal blows: the death of his father, followed by major health issues confronted by his partner, and then the artist himself. While an artist’s providing context for their own show can be helpful, here the chasm between the source of Trepte’s examinations and the ensuing coolness of the work itself is, well, a stretch.
That said, art that explores chance is seldom if ever imbued with overtones of mortality. Is it too generous to re-consider the terms of “By Any Possibility” through the lens of the artist’s personal life struggles, or just a distraction? If nothing else, it poses an interesting thought exercise. Meanwhile, we’re also provided with useful details of Trepte’s process: the toner transfers are the result of un-melted prints that are inverted and then ironed onto the panels; the undermost layers are derived from images of the undersides of his kitchen sheet pans; the diagonal line which is employed in most of the work is derived from an algorithm called a cellular automata which, paradoxically, produces random patterns. The installation choices — a toner piece at eye level paired with a bleached work hung just barely off the floor, and two panels mounted mid-room, back-to-back — while thoroughly intentional, come off as arbitrary. Trepte’s ambitions encompass the merging of painting and photography, the painterly with the conceptual, and, moreover, attempting to deconstruct time. It’s laudably ambitious on paper, but the overbearing aura of his strategic sensibility outweighs the nuanced explorations of the strongest individual works.