Meghann Riepenhoff, Ecotone
“Ecotone” is an exhibition of new cyanotypes by Meghann Riepenhoff. Following on her 2017 exhibition at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, “Littoral Drift” – prints made from direct exposure to ocean waves – “Ecotone” expands her work with the 19th century cyanotype process, both in scale and in the varied forms of water in which the photographs are created.
“Ecotone” engages dynamic photographic materials in the landscape, collaborating with precipitation and bodies of water to produce rich, blue-hued prints. For the most recent works, rain, snow, ice activate the photographic materials while they expose in day light. The photo-chemically treated papers are draped on objects in the landscape, from windfall branches, stumps and boulders to garbage cans and fences, recording the movement of water as it passes through the topographies of the built and unbuilt landscape.
The exhibition will feature cyanotypes made in waters under duress because of human intervention, extreme weather patterns, natural cycles, or industrial practices. The artist’s largest piece to date (92” x 266”), was made on the south side of the Great Salt Lake, a body of water experiencing record low water levels. On the north side of the lake, where the water’s composition is distinctly different, Riepenhoff made prints at the edge of Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”. Other prints were made in the Puget Sound, where trace amounts of opiates have been found in shellfish, and Toxic Beach in San Francisco, formerly the site of an industrial plant, impromptu punk shows and ample graffiti, now littered with old tires and bits of plastic.
Also on view are “Erasures”, prints made in heavy rain. The duration of the storms and volume of water wash away a majority of the cyanotype chemistry, resulting in light-toned, minimal works. On prints made over multiple days in multiple storms, water forms crosshatches and geometric patterns across the paper depending on Riepenhoff’s placement of the paper, creating a collaboration between rain drops and the artist’s deliberate choices.
By definition, an ecotone is a transition area where two or more distinct biological habitats adjoin. In reality, habitats are not distinct, but are instead a series of gradual and continual shifts in the landscape, such as the transition from mountains to foothills, or where land and water connect. It is in this fluid area of change that Riepenhoff focuses her attention. Her work elegantly demonstrates the intersection of natural cycles, human intervention, and how we image our engagement with the environment.