Born 1954, Jersey City, New Jersey; lives in Austin, Texas

A member of the so-called Pictures Generation, Troy Brauntuch—whose career spans some three decades—has often been discussed as taking a particularly postmodern tack when it comes to representation. Yet his works, as much as they can be seen as performing a deconstructive function, are equally compelling for their subtle insistence on subjective experience. Long interested in contextual operations, Brauntuch produces various kinds of interruptions between images and their presumed meanings. On first glance, nearly all his works exert a whisperlike banality, but what appears to be commonplace yields unexpected layers. Unlike the rapidity inherent in so much of the imagery surrounding us today, Brauntuch’s photo-based works enact a slow burn. Sometimes it literally takes time to acclimate one’s eyes to see them at all or, in other cases, to penetrate the sheer ordinariness of the images offered.

Well known for early works in which he decontextualized what would otherwise be hyperbolically charged content, Brauntuch has long been concerned with revealing the kinds of cultural knowledge we unwittingly rely on in our everyday deciphering of images. A 1977 series of photographic screenprints with the simple title 1 2 3 was made using borrowed imagery: unremarkable sketches of a tank, a vestibule, and a stage set. There is no accompanying caption or other text with which to site these fragmentary clues, whose immediate capacity to signify has been temporarily tampered with. The appropriated sketches were, it turns out, penned by Adolf Hitler, whose name, of course, once divulged, imparts overwhelming significance to otherwise rather insignificant images. Brauntuch highlights the strange effect such alienation and then reuniting of form and content can have on a viewer.

In his most recent work, Brauntuch investigates that infrathin space between a thing and our idea of it. Continuing to lean on the photographic as such even while utilizing a variety of media, he is able to play with yet another layer of mediation. In his conté crayon works on black cotton, the images feel as though they were conjured from the deep recesses of phantasmic space. What appear at first to be monochromatic canvases reveal photo-derived images (a woman’s polka-dotted coat, the supine form of a cat) that coagulate and rise to the surface, barely there. In his photographs, everyday objects assert their ephemerality, and a tangible, intimate silence seems as much a part of the pictures as the simple domestic scenes they convey.

JB more about this artist in the Biennial Catalogue

> Click here to Magnify this image <

Untitled (Shirts 2), 2005. Conté crayon on cotton, 63 x 51 in. (160 x 129.5 cm). Collection of Alberto and Maria de la Cruz; courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York