Josephine Pryde’s exhibition “The Vibrating Slab,” on view at The Art Institute of Chicago, represents a pivotal moment in Pryde’s body of work by combining two series that head in perpendicular directions, but come together, uniting themselves by touching for a brief moment within this space.
Fifteen large-scale photographs on the floor of the gallery, a combination of chromogenic and inkjet, serve as the ground from which the remaining exhibition grows. The contents of the images challenge the viewer’s perception of the macro and micro. Detailed designs rest organically in the earth: circles of sand reverberating from a central point, organized spiraling piles of dirt, melting slivers of ice, all resulting in intentional symbols left as a warning, or token of encouragement, from a being in a disparate nook of the cosmos. The viewer is left grounded, feeling their feet supported against the floor, but gently reminded of the vastness of the shifting tectonic plates that are allowing for this moment. The photographs are strategically positioned as portals to the center of the earth, connecting the viewer to the entirety of the galaxy. This is where the vibration begins.
On the surrounding walls hang additional smaller, lustrous chromogenic prints depicting ephemeral moments stretched out by long exposure. Pryde is playing with time as a malleable substance. This allows for quick, reflexive patterns to be paused and interrogated with authority. The images reveal a buzzing Nokia phone positioned with a faux-crystal stone, the resulting movement reduced to scribbled lines and expanded to lightening bolts. The deep black background lets the linework shimmer, the phone and crystal feel equally delicate, valuable, and essential. These photographs can be felt without touch in the viewer’s right hand or burning in their back pocket, likely home to their own vibrating slab.
Turning the physical and metaphorical corner, the next room of the gallery is home to Pryde’s series “Hands.” The walls host a chorus of chromogenic and silver-gelatin prints with a few using a pink, blue or sea-green filter. Compared to the work in the previous gallery, the “Hands” series introduces color as a key player, its use painstakingly intentional down to the color of nail polish on the subject. Each image offers a different demonstration of hands bracing a screen. Two hands gripping an iPad, a thumb grazing the spine of a phone, a hand sketching on a digital drafting device. Revealed is an unshakable sense of intimacy between humans and their screens, a delicacy in the way the subjects interact with the device, as if holding a newborn. These images remind the viewer how fragile these devices are when reduced to the physical realm. Hands, strong and dexterous, could snap the device in an instant, evaporating the digital portal that the screens serve as windows to.
“The Vibrating Slab” invites the viewer to interrogate their relationship to their own vibrating slabs, both the ones in their pocket and the ones beneath their feet. Through these digital and natural portals, a sense of intimate connection emerges between the viewer, their palm-sized technology, and the colossal whole of our galaxy.
Josephine Pryde, “The Vibrating Slab” at The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan. Through January 30.