Double Document and Blind Spot
My work explores photography’s possibilities by exaggerating its failure to capture or to mirror “the real.” I often employ re-photography (making photographs of photographs), either by having subjects re-enact previous imagery or by aiming the camera at photographic prints themselves. Re-photography collapses multiple images and multiple points in time into one single image, complicating what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the “decisive moment.” My photographs take subjects and their surroundings to produce initial, straightforward meanings and details that result from an iterative process of taking, making, and remaking; they destabilize, upset, and multiply their interpretive possibilities.
The possibilities of photography are one of my primary concerns, but particular subject matter is also important. Performance (as a concept and as practice), art history and artistic influences, queerness, and (an often humorous) eroticism all recur in different series. In nearly all my work, the body—as an object of desire and study, as an engine of unstable, context-dependent meaning, is a dominant force. After more than thirty years of taking photographs, I remain obsessed with what a camera can do—documenting, abstracting, transforming, and extending moments and ideas.
Double Document is partially inspired by documentation of distressed photographs on the floor of Francis Bacon’s studio—and, less directly, by his use of them to explore the relationship between sensation and the body. I have photographed choreographers and dancers with unique styles performing in my studio. Together, we selected a handful of images with which I created large black and white prints. Laying the prints on the floor, they executed directly on top of the prints the same movements that were earlier documented in each photograph. I re-photographed the damaged and distressed prints on a large light box. The resulting, final images document movement in two ways, as both photographic representation and as sculptural trace.
Blind Spot, my first departure in many years from the subject of the human figure, began with photographs of unfamiliar hand tools. I cut out prints of the tools, pinned them to a black self-healing cutting matt, and used black spray paint and dodging tools to create the illusion of depth. The paint, shadows and dodging tools appear soft, although on closer inspection only the latter are out of focus. The photographs resist comprehension as a result of the viewer’s partial knowledge of their subject matter. Gaps in the viewer’s knowledge create literal and figurative voids that generate their own ambiguous force.
Tad Beck was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. He earned his B.F.A. in photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 1991, and his M.F.A. from ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California, in 2003. He lives and works in New York City and Vinalhaven, Maine
Mr. Beck’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions since 1989, most recently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2010); The Fisher Center at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (2013); Samuel Freeman Gallery, Santa Monica (2011); as well as exhibitions of collaborative works: Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions with Jennifer Locke (2012); VOLUME, Los Angeles with taisha paggett and Yann Novak (2016); Theodore: Art, Brooklyn with Diana Cherbuliez (2013).
His work has been exhibited in group exhibitions at the Spritmuseum, Stockholm (2016); the Portland Museum of Art, Maine (2005); the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts (2014); the Ogunquit Museum of Art, Maine (2012); the Sweeney Art Gallery at the University of California, Riverside (2010); the Sheppard Gallery at the University of Nevada, Reno (2009); Apex Art, New York (2008); Jancar Gallery, Los Angeles (2011); Monte Vista Projects, Los Angeles (2008); and Krowswork, Oakland (2010).
Beck’s work is represented in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Worcester Art Museum, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; the Sweeney Gallery at the University of California Riverside, and the Portland Museum of Art, Maine, among others.