The internet is fettered with images. Images by artists and non-artists. And anyone can see them. Penelope Umbrico is intrigued by the masses of images available on the internet. Just type in a subject in your search engine, and you’ll find an abundance of images posted by millions and ten of millions of people from all over the world. To Penelope, you’re getting a voyeuristic view into other peoples lives. But you don’t know who they are. They could be anyone. They could be you.
Penelope Umbrico’s ‘Suns (from Sunsets)’ (photo above) represent the collectively created and ever changing auto-portrait that we create and that we consume on the internet. Are the images an individual expression? Or are they, due to the mass of similar images available, a collective expression? Sunsets are a positive thing. They are beautiful. But what about tv sets (below)? There’s a lot of them for sale, many of them broken in some way. On Craiglist, Penelope found a host of images of tv-sets for sale. The photo’s in the adds show the screens turned on but without a tv-show to watch. The colors are different depending on the screens, the angles or camera used. But they all look the same. The same boring, functional object, the same image that’s for sale. Where the sunsets images have no humans in them, some of the tv images show a reflection of the photographer in the screen. But you can’t see who they are, making them just as anonymous as the sunsets. The same goes for ‘Instances of books being read’, with opened books being read by somebody. By anybody.
Whereas the photographers of the tv-sets may not be concerned with form and color, Penelope is. Her work is very conceptual, but it’s not just a matter of putting all the images next to each other. Penelope wants you look at the sunsets and tv’s. At each exhibit the imags have to be layed out again. She lays out the images by color and composition to entice you as a viewer to move your eyes around the piece. When her art is shown at galleries, she advises curators on how to place the images. But the final layout of the images is usually more an intuitive selection within a conceptual framework. When her pieces are framed, she does take more time to create a specific color and compositional arrangement as the piece then becomes permanent.
Penelope Umbrico will be present at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam, representing the Aperture Foundation.