Brian Ulrich Gurnee, IL 2005 chromogenic print mounted on sintra with luster laminate 30" x 40
The sign reads "More Outdoors for Your Money Patriotic Chairs $9.99". The image is just one of the most resonant of the ten extrordinary prints Brian Ulrich has supplied for his first solo show at Julie Saul. I've been looking at this artist's remarkable work since 2004 and he continues to pull large and small miracles out of his more-or-less-candid large-format camera while he explores the familiar acres of the western world's stores of plenty.
After we had left the opening reception on Thursday we ran into some friends on the street where we told them about the show. To my astonishment I found myself able to describe in considerable detail several photographs I hadn't seen for several years, and most of the others seemed to be inside my head waiting impatiently for the chance to come out. These images just won't go away.
The show is titled "Copia", for its penetrating but very tender tender look at the material cornucopia (horn of plenty) spread out everywhere at our feet today, growing even faster than the communities which feed on it so voraciously. Unlike the image above, most of the work is highlighted by the dazed or absorbed faces of anonymous consumers.
But there's much more going on in these images, for the artist's eye and his editing have together produced truly-beautiful composed genre scenes no less authentic than those of Breugel or Vermeer. We've long since cast aside our long scythes and short needles, so here the earthy, fleshy busyness of the Flemish master and the simple domestic props of the Delft burgher are replaced by the mountains of manufactured "things" with which we surround ourselves three and four hundred years later.
Not incidentally for work like this, the printing quality of the large color pieces themselves is terrific; any reproduction seems little more than a suggestion of the piece itself.
Ulrich describes his initial inspriration for this series of work as a response to George Bush's post 9/11 summons for Americans to just go shopping, thereby equating consumerism with patriotism. If shopping has now become a political act, this artist has become the realm's unofficial limner laureate.