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Curtis Mann’s photographs contain fragments of scenes that are partially erased and obscured. Mann’s process draws attention to the artifice of the photographic medium by demonstrating the malleability of images. He begins by culling images of strife and conflict in various international locations from photosharing websites such as Flickr and then has prints made. Once he has the prints in hand he covers portions of the photographs with a protective varnish and pours bleach over each one, stripping away areas not coated with varnish.
In After the Dust, Second View (Beirut), Mann has arranged a grid of snapshots of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Taken together, the images resemble remnants of an explosion. What remains are mostly fragments of buildings in settings that lack substantive visual clues, preventing a coherent understanding of the larger context. Through the physical destruction and manipulation of these images, Mann questions the medium’s reliability as a documentary tool, troubling the ability of a photograph to convey truth.
MP3, II: Curtis Man, John Opera, and Stacia Yeapnis
—Artforum (August 2009; note: registration required)
Critic’s Pick: Curtis Mann by Dawoud Bey
—Art Talk Chicago (August 2009)