Using found photographs and film as a point of departure in her work, Marlo Pascual blows up, crops, rotates, re-stages and adds what she calls ‘props’ – such as Flavin-esque fluorescent tubes, rocks or anvils – to her images to create photo-based sculptures and installations. Her work variously brings to mind art movements such as Conceptual Art, Minimalism, Surrealism, Arte Povera, but brought together in her singular style with a wholly contemporary re-examination of how photographs interact with their viewers. Pascual exposes the overt constructions of her selected images by playing with the relationship between work, space and audience, turning stylised vintage photos into conceptual sites of engagement.
Pascual culls her vintage pictures from eBay and thrift stores, some coming out of an amateur photography club where the photographers strive to take ‘artistic’ photos, others shots of would-be Hollywood starlets. They are of historical genres; still lifes, interiors and furniture, portraits, headshots, nudes and pin-ups. When they arrive, the images are small, handheld, fetish-like objects. In an interplay with the photograph’s own physicality as an object, Pascual filters the images through her imagination, physically manipulating and often obscuring them with wry visual tricks and contrasting materials, removing the subjects from their previous contexts and recasting them in new roles.
The Arts Club exhibition featured, over the fireplace, an image of a young woman, massively blown up, flipped upside down and torn in half – the kind of violence done to a photograph usually after a break-up, or some other kind of trouble, to rid the owner of its memory. Rather than lost to anonymity, however, in Pascual’s hands the eyes take on a new, somewhat unsettling existence. Likewise, over the course of the exhibition the candles that obscured the eyes of the male portrait slowly streamed down the cheeks of the subject, forever altering its once stagnant appearance in its new guise as an artwork. Pascual has said of her appropriation and transformation of existing images, “I’m not destroying them. I like to think I’m giving them a new life.”
Born in 1972 in Tennessee, Marlo Pascual lives and works in New York City. She has had solo shows at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado and the Swiss Institute in New York, and has featured in group shows at museums such as the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle and the Garage Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow.