Erin O’Keefe’s collage crushes all trust in photography as a portrayal of reality. By merging her artistic identities as architect and photographer, O’Keefe distorts perception with undoubtedly three-dimensional sculptures that appear as undoubtedly one-dimensional pictures on paper.
Things As They Are (2015) is a photography exhibition. Its prints resemble abstract expressionism, flat blocks of color and line connoting the geometry of Frank Stella or the luminescence of Rothko. Picture planes that deceive, that become more than a smooth surface. But O’Keefe is not taking paint to canvas, and the depth is not artificial: the lines are blocks of wood tilted against a wall, the glowing color the result of light shining through plexiglass. These are captured on camera, so we ask, are these images, or sculptures in another form?
In a post-conceptual art world, where originality is considered holy but increasingly difficult, O’Keefe rests steady on the tightrope suspended between the artist as maker and artist as thinker. Show a group of fine art students today Natural Disasters (2015), and they’ll say they’re sick of Photoshop art. O’Keefe’s done it so well that real-life constructions of paper, tin foil and painted boards look like digitally-created collages of the internet age. So often do visuals attempt simulation of reality, it’s hard to recognize when reality is doing the tricking.