Sam Falls

Sam Falls, Untitled (Burgundy, Naples, Italy), 2013. Courtesy the artist and T293, Napoli/Roma. Foto © Amedeo Benestante.

The work of Sam Falls explores color, the natural processes of perception and the image as a material fact. Working in a wide range of media, both analog and digital, the artist analyzes the role played by time and a specific place in the formation of an image.
Untitled (Burgundy, Naples, Italy) was conceived and created for the Madre and Naples. Both the architecture of the institution and the weather conditions of the city have become part of the process and language by which the work was created. On the museum terrace the artist installed a large sheet of dark red fabric, on which he placed some volcanic stone tiles, the same as those used in the paving of the terrace. In the course of four months, the sunlight, air temperature, pollution, weather and environmental conditions will intervene to change the color of the fabric in the areas left exposed, while the color will remain intact in the parts covered by tiles. In this time span viewers will observe the performative creation of the work which, in this phase, is installed in its developing form: in this way the museum becomes the site of production of artworks and, at the same time, the place where a trace of the sky and soul of Naples is deposited. At the end of this period the fabric will have acquired a different appearance, a combination of geometric abstraction and natural processes of deterioration, and will be installed in the museum as a wall-mounted exhibit, together with a sculpture created using the same tiles.
As in other works, again in this case Falls uses natural elements such as light and weather to expand the concept of photography. While analog photography uses light to record images and transfer them to paper, in this case it is the light of Naples that creates the image, however abstract, and imprints it on the fabric. In this way the artist aligns himself with a tradition that has explored the possibility of doing photography without a lens, by placing objects beneath a light source and in direct contact with a light-sensitive support, a technique introduced by Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy in the 1920s.
Working in this tradition, Falls introduces elements drawn from Procedural Art, Land Art and Arte Povera, artistic movements that adopted the specifics of a place and time as structural linguistic elements, so creating works that remain closely related to the context of the time and that retain an element of transformation. Falls uses non-photographic materials to create a bridge between photography, painting, sculpture and performance. His works involve elements that are found in each of these media: the relation with light and the change of scale characteristic of photography, the material quality of the image that defines painting, the installational nature of sculpture and the concept of the “trace” inherent in performance.
The materials used, like the tiles of lava rock in this case, produce a twofold effect: they are characteristic of a place (lava stone from the slopes of Vesuvius), and they are instruments used to achieve an abstract language, in which we see a dialectic between the specific and the general, between time as a moment (the photograph) and time as geological sedimentation.