Reciprocity of Light, 2010

Brandon Lattu’s installations do not give obvious answers. They rather make a statement through more ambiguous gestures, at least on first impressions. Based in Los Angeles, Lattu is an artist with multiple practices including a sculpture that was created from time-based photographic operations, which resulted in an abstraction of physical form. Lattu’s perspective allows us to investigate and pry into our surroundings and current events and is provocative yet slightly understated. I recently saw his solo exhibition “Reciprocity of Light” at Leo Koenig, and was especially drawn to the minimal aesthetics of the “Random Compositions“.  After our brief chat over the telephone and the following answers, I got a better perception of the artist’s theoretical practice. I highly recommend experiencing the unique installation Reciprocity of Light while it is still up.

Seven Projections, 2010

Your work seems to pay a huge tribute to William Fox Talbot, one of the founding fathers of photography. Although Talbot dealt with analog imagery, you both use time-based elements as a tool in your work. Can you simply describe how Talbot’s work has been an influence to your latest piece “Reciprocity of Light“?
I think that you are referring to the temporal characteristic of Talbot’s work, which doesn’t relate very much to how I make work currently.  But the central piece in the exhibition, Reciprocity of Light does address the advent of photography in a couple of ways.  It presents an empty white room with one illuminating bare bulb, that in conjunction with sensitized lights on the surface of the room causes the shadow of the viewer to be displayed as a form produced in light on the white scrim that covers the walls and ceiling.  So this piece does perform the crucial aspect of Fox-Talbot’s development of the medium: production of an analog, negative image.  But in the case of my work this image is not fixed – in fact it follows the viewer as they move about the space, making their body a primary component in the work; in a manner relates to the theatricalization of the body in minimalist art as described by Michael Fried back in the 60s.

Random Composition 74-7, 2010

How do you feel about the shifting values of art being digitally produced today?
I think the more pressing discussion actually surrounds the greater industrialization of art practice today and how this runs counter to the idealism of art in general.  This is, of course, linked to the industrialization of representation that was brought to the fore with the technological revolution of photography in the 19th century, but I don’t see the change in digital technology having as dramatic a change as the origination of photography did then.  In fact, the digital development in representation seems to be just another part of the inherently technological progression of photography from the beginning.  It is clear that the digital takeover from analog has caused a wide swath of artists to revert to simulating the forms of earlier modernist practices.  But for me, my engagement with a chosen subject is primary. If the subject suggests the use of digital tools I naturally pursue this direction with the aim of finding the social correlation to these tools in the final work.

Your work deals with visual memory and architecture. How does the LA scene effect your work?
That’s a big question.  I guess my first answer would be to say that Los Angeles affects my work because it allows me to have a studio and more mental and physical space than if I lived in a city like New York.  My studio is about 1000sq ft and I rent it for $700.  I always seem to be moving towards a post-studio practice, but still, having this space affords a kind of freedom I doubt I could afford elsewhere.  For the second answer, I’d say that my work explicitly addresses site and the referential qualities of site in photography, so the model of a metropolis that exists in Los Angeles is very significant to what I do.  There’s too much to say about Los Angeles to fit in the space we have for this interview, so I’ll simply say that I often still get lost in this city – I find myself in places that I’ve never been. It’s hard to be definite, but I think that this aspect of the city has helped me generate new work.

Banqueting House, 2007

If you were to live in another city, where would that be?
I’ve always wanted to live in Brussels, but would probably choose Berlin as it is less of a fantasy for me.

What inspired you to go for a more minimalist approach in the “Random Composition” series? Are the colors symbolic in their meaning?
Last question first – the colors are not symbolic to me, but I could see how they might be to you or any viewer.  The Random Composition series don’t seem that minimal to me.  They’ve each got a monochromatic front face with 4 different photographs that occupy the sides, top, and bottom.  So they initially present a minimal front to the viewer but it’s surrounded by photographs that connect to the wall.  It’s important to me that all aspects of these pieces are generated randomly: the dimensions of the piece, the color of the front, and the selection of images from an archive of almost 100,000 photographs I have made since 2003.  It’s important to note that once I generate the potential object, I only select to produce about 5-10% of these as actual physical pieces.  This means that I don’t subjectively compose them, but after they exist virtually as readymades constructed with this system, I make ones that are chosen in a fashion that relates to the kind of selection process that a photographer has traditionally made when looking at a contact sheet.

Basement Box, 2008

You have been with the gallery Leo Koenig since its early days and this is your 3rd solo show there. How does this on-going relationship influence you as an artist?
Leo has understood from the beginning that I was committed to a non-corporate model of making art.  It sounds odd to describe my practice in this way, but I do think it is important to identify this as a primary aspect of what has worked well about our relationship.  He has always been supportive of my need to produce work that refers to serial production but avoids a “signature” style.  Lately he’s been especially supportive of the recent developments in my work, intellectually and through assistance with production.

Can you give a piece of advice to those younger artists who are just taking their first baby steps into the art world?
The work should always come first. I’d advise artists to always consider their models of authenticity as both a realization of a point in social time and a constituent element of their construction of themselves as artists. Also, find something that you can make everyday, cheaply.  I always shot a roll of pictures a day, processing them at Kmart, Bradlees, CVS, PhotoHut, Walmart, etc.  From this, I got 10 years of images of the world for less than $5 a day from a period I couldn’t afford to produce much else. David Hammons made snowballs.

Any upcoming projects?
The completion of a show always brings up new issues.  Lately, I have been using Kodachrome to document photographs I made from 1993 until 2003.  This was the period of my work made as a student up until I adopted a digital camera for everyday photographs, my “salad days”, if you will.  I’m currently interested in pursuing this analog work with a non-empirical, anti-modernist approach.  I better get these done soon though, Kodachrome is officially ending as a film process at the end of this year.

Name five contemporary artists who are inspirational.
That’s always changing.  I’ve lately been considering or reconsidering the work of Morgan Fisher, Amy Sarkisian, John Knight, Adrian Piper, Marc-Camille Chaimowicz, and David Hughes.
(Images courtesy of Leo Koenig)