Jessica Labatte’s work explores paradoxes and illusions present within photographic images. Using the photographic medium itself as a site of investigation for the ways photographs manifest space, surface, object, time, and event, Labatte’s hybrid digital-analog practice embraces a variety of photographic technologies. From solarized silver gelatin photograms, to carbon prints that incorporate the dust of precious minerals, to multiple exposures and large-scale inkjet prints that flaunt the gestures of Photoshop retouching, Labatte deploys a philosophical approach to photographic technology, embracing and subverting each process to reinvent and create new possibilities for photographic representation. Similar to a medium channeling the unseen, Labatte’s work explores photographic notions of the visible and invisible, the present and withdrawn. Her photographic images explore concepts of autonomy, agency, and chance in contemporary material culture and photographic space.
Labatte’s seemingly abstract works use darkroom processes, analog cameras, color film, and digital retouching processes to explore an imagined virtual space beyond traditional notions of photographic representation. Using tropes of modernist abstraction as a way to interrogate the photographic surface, these images carefully exploit the faults of photographic representation through color, form, material, and illusion. In layered brightly colored works, surface, labor, time, and gesture merge real and virtual spaces. Light and shadow reveal presence and absence, distraction and attention, solidifying photography’s potential as the link between physical and immaterial worlds. Drawing from inspiration from Hilma af Klint, and early abstractionists such as László Moholy-Nagy, Labatte’s work uses photographic surface and depictions of virtual space to explore color, time, and sensation. Multiple exposures become a metaphor for the visible and invisible within society, photographic image making, and art. Depicting a space present before the camera only in partial exposures these images show time and space collapsed in on itself – a blended non-space that exists only in image form. In the “Spotting” series, colorful marks record the gestures of a body mediated through digital space. Intention and agency, decision and action, appear as scribbles of a pseudo-expression in what is truly a record of the efforts to remove the barely visible within physical space. These images, although documents of functional retouching, become accumulations of an unconscious collaboration between artist and assistant - the virtual space of the image and the physical space of matter.