Archives, ideally, provide insight into the past. Through the information they contain, they have the potential to illuminate dark corners of shared history. Blending Archives, however, is more personal. The works do provide a history of sorts, but one that lacks readily accessible dates, locations, descriptions or even titles. Instead, the works engender, from disparate pasts, a new, individual history that’s intriguing but certainly of no use in a footnote.
For the exhibition, artists Diana Blok and Pieter Bijwaard match 60 works from their photography and drawing oeuvres, respectively, for a total of 30 pairings of anthropological photos and widely varied (but all 32.5-by-25 centimeter) abstract drawings. The pairs are positioned side by side—photo on the right, drawing on the left—as archival digital prints, a term that, coincidentally, also plays fast and loose with the word archive. It refers to the print’s ability to endure, rather than its historical content. Set off from the white walls by thin black frames, Blok’s work shows a penchant for studying humanity; Bijwaard’s for that part of humanity which cannot be expressed in words.
Why the sets are grouped is subconsciously intuitive but (fortunately) rarely obvious; they follow angles, palettes or, less straightforwardly, abstract concepts or general feelings. The result is a series of well-timed, clever juxtapositions and an entirely new experience made from old pieces of art.
One work features Blok’s photograph of tall, slender white candles that, melted together into a makeshift shrine, ark and shrink but remain lit. Bijwaard’s corresponding blue, orange and white cubist abstraction teases out those same colors’ prominence from the photo. In another work, Blok’s photo of luxurious embroidered linens makes an unlikely fit with Bijwaard’s red-and-black dot-and-line drawing, which faintly mimics the warm distress of the rumpled morning sheets.
In a uniquely contextualized work—we’re told it’s a self-portrait—Blok photographs her brow from above. Amid a blacked-out background, she casts a dermatologist’s attention to her skin’s myriad freckles. To the left, Bijwaard conjures what looks like a washed-out wide-ruled sheet of loose-leaf paper that’s perhaps been sitting too long in a damp school desk. Upon it, colorful rectangles lilt slightly from horizontal and bleed their hues. What Blok’s photo and Bijwaard’s drawing have to do with each other would seem nebulous, were it not for the blocks’ colors—straight out of the spring palette of the unfortunately evergreen Ralph Lauren polo line—pairing perfectly with Blok’s ginger complexion.
The piece in which the photo and drawing’s relationship is most overt is also the least satisfying. In it, Bijwaard’s relatively banal drawing of mildly turbulent blue water loiters next to Blok’s black-and-white photo of the same scene. The delight of finding completion from incongruity is spoiled like soft waves turned to whitecaps on a lake.
In another piece, a photo of a beautiful woman with the unfortunate predilection for Jersey Shore couture—leopard underwear, large homogenized jewelry, press-on nails—stands to the right of a delicate study of expertly shaded spheres and curvaceous dashes. Here, the relationship between the pieces is explicit, but funny, too.
Blending Archives is not a traditional—or even useful—archive. But, while knowing more about the works—whom or what Blok photographed, or where in Bijwaard’s corpus or mind-state his drawings fall—could have recalled the past, the artists opt, instead, to revise a future. The successful pairings create a new way to look at their art, the narrative of which is in the eye of the viewer.