Bradley Marshall and Ian Kline
Oct 6 - 22, 2023
Left to Right, Right to Left
I first met Ian Kline in my rigorous days of skateboarding, when skating was all I ever cared about and wanted to do. A group of friends and I would pilgrimage up to York, Pennsylvania where Reid Menzer, the largest and “best” skatepark, was located. Reid Menzer was a young skateboarder who tragically passed away after being run over by a car. A foundation was formed in his memory, pooling donations to form a large endowment. The skatepark opened in September 2008, when I was about 12 years old. I gradually began to meet locals at the park. Since my friends and I all grew up in tourist beach towns in Delaware and Maryland, we would rotate stays between Ian and his friend’s parents’ places in York, and our parents places by the Maryland beaches.
Ian and I have seen each other’s lives drastically change through our attempts to reinvent ourselves as artists (as corny as that sounds). Both of our initial entry points into the arts were due to us getting severely injured from skateboarding, forcing us to find other outputs for or pent up energy. I blew out my knee a few times, causing three knee surgeries down the line, while Ian had severe nerve damage from breaking his forearm, which lead to multiple of surgeries to “fix the problem” and return to normal function. The injury ultimately caused him to switch his dominant hand from his left to his right, forcing him to learn how to write, draw, eat, etc. with his right hand in early high school. I remember being bored in high school classes and trying to teach myself to write with my left hand. I was able to do it, but the writing looked even worse than my doctor-esc right hand writing. I started trying to write left handed after my father told me he forced me to be right handed, after he saw me developing tendencies with my left as an early child. Even with the option of switching dominant hands, I still returned back to my native righthand-ness.
In response to fast pace cultural tempos in online “spaces,” people alter their outward positions on multiple subjects. The general public can succumb to the wading “back and forth” of ideology and politics, dismissively generating vapid left and right responses to prevalent social problems. The current climate directs left or right, without ups or downs, leading us to search for memorial distractions from bipartisan ethos. I didn’t want to touch on the overindulgent and tired aspects of political analysis in the arts, but I think Ians work offers a glimpse away; A glimpse into both an ideal presentation of the past and a non-farcical projection of the future.
Ians work offers a position of structure, following the tradition of slowness in large format 8x10 photography, while retracting from the straightforward approach of documentation with a new alternative form: He presents American social landscapes, usually associated with the withering and escapist aspects of the American suburbs, yet invigorates the form by embedding the prints with massive amounts of information and touches of colorful abstractions. The work starts to read as set of dazed memories that allude meaning or importance. In this chaos the viewer is forced to reposition their structured view, reconsidering the function of digital (immaterial) photography in a place of tension.
Ian introduced me to Bradley Marshall, as he stopped by in New York for a day or two on his way to the artist residency program, Skowhegan. Similar to me and Ian’s interests in photography, Bradley was incredibly invested in “traditional” American documentary photography at that time. Considering his own contributions to an “Art World” conversation, he began to experiment with new methods of material output. Interested in the aesthetics of photography and printmaking, while dissatisfied by their respective automative processes, he sought out a handmade approach to 3d modeling.
In addressing the binding factors of ontology and decisive hierarchies, Marshall’s work resorts back to subjective presentations of “home.” He uses comfort foods, occupying transparent models of homes with iconic American cereals. He assembles structures with tension, both figuratively and literally, favoring active participation over definite resolution. He challenges linearity, constructing according to a responsive set of instructions, with each successive part designed in response to the parts assembled before it. Each piece of MDF, along with their conjoining pegs, are hand crafted and created as individualized works. Each step in the process furthers pulls at this tension, blurring the boundary between individual advancement and the contribution to a collective whole. Polar distinctions are left in a contradictory liminal space.
I started writing this initially as an essay following the common thread-lines between my and Ian’s pasts, highlighting similarities of progression and gravitation towards the image. After studio visits with both Ian and Bradley, I adapted the text according to the similarities I viewed in their production methods. For both artists, process becomes a space of retained tension, an odd area of comfort and familiarity where standardized methods can become tools of critique. Both Ian, in his own appreciation for the slow dying form of 8x10 large format photography, and Bradley, in his use of hand tools and materials of mass automation, open intermediate avenues in the domestic malaise. Our attention turns not to the produced, the flattened print or built construct, but rather the active burning essence, the memory of what we left behind.