Walead Beshty, Natural Histories
Book Review by Nancy Roth
Published by: JRP-Ringier
Although Walead Beshty is a young man (b. London, 1976) and this catalogue covers only ten years of his career, Natural Histories is a retrospective. The formal diversity of the work is striking: stereoscopic views of housing projects, casual portraits, large abstract colour photograms, prints made from film exposed in an airport security scanner. But the conceptual coherence is striking as well: it’s like a threedimensional philosophy that uses objects and spaces, rather than words. Through concrete materials, observable processes, specific instances, it refutes the kind of abstraction that words so easily make familiar (or ‘natural’) and that photography usually reinforces.
Beshty’s portraits do not aspire to timelessness or essence: they convey quirky, ephemeral exchanges between photographer and subject. Rather than prints, the photograms are unique pieces of paper. The work, as Nicolas Borriaud points out in one of the essays, bears marks of its own making, manipulation, transportation, installation. It positions us viewers as points in a concrete system of exchange.
Generous in format, in reproductions, and in supporting documentation (There are half a dozen selections of Beshty’s own writing – albeit in 8 point type!), this volume offers a comprehensive and thoughtful overview of this artist’s provocative work.