Curtis Mann has been busy these days. The young Chicago photo based artist recently closed an impressive UBS 12X12 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in March, around the same time he was mounting an exhibition at Boston's Howard Yezerski Gallery. Last month saw him exhibiting in The Solo Project Art Fair in Basel with Kusseneers Gallery with whom he shows in Antwerp. Aperture (in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Photography's MP3 program) has issued his first monograph as part of the second volume of MP3 books of emerging photo based talent. His work is currently on display--prominently featured in the first room when you walk in the door--at MoCP as part of its MP3 exhibition, which is on display until September 10th. I guess you could say this has been a very good year for Curtis Mann, especially since he is only one year out of the MFA Photography program at Columbia College Chicago.
Full disclosure dictates that I tell you that Mann and his work are quite familiar to me, as I teach in the Photography program at Columbia and Mann was a student of mine in the MFA Photography program there. I also included his work in an exhibition I curated "Are We There Yet" which opened in Boston and traveled to the Hyde Park Art Center here in Chicago. I've been excited about his work for some time and have talked him up to anyone who I think appreciates good and interesting photo based work. His success, however, is due entirely to his vision and talent for developing a singular and sustained voice through which to talk about his concerns as an artist. One of the real pleasures of teaching is indeed seeing someone like Mann develop their ideas and craft and reach a level where that hard work is then appreciated and recognized by others in the field.
Mann's Modifications series all begin as images that he appropriates from a number of different sources, all online. Typing in various locations--often Israel and various points in the Mideast that have been blighted by violence, he then downloads and prints these pictures. At that point the extensive handwork (no PhotoShop here) of bleaching, chemically erasing, drawing and painting in new information begins. leaving just enough of the original image to lend a sense of tension filled space, Mann reinvents these places as alternate landscapes of the imagination. His use of the appropriated image and the vast online universe of images marks Mann as conspicuously of this moment even as his ability to skillfully shape those images to his own subjective and idiosyncratic narrative suggests the power that has always resided in art executed with serious and rigorous intent.
The exhibition MP3 II: Curtis Mann, John Opera, Stacia Yeapanis continues at the Museum of Contemporary Photograph through September 10th with a closing reception and book signing that day from 5-7 PM.