Susan Rankaitis: Grey Matters at Robert Mann Gallery, New York
By Lyle Rexer
When I first saw Susan Rankaitis’s work almost 20 years ago, I felt like I was entering the Cave of Altamira. I had never seen anything so chemical, so metallic, and the shimmering surfaces of those giant prints were like looking into the material origin of photography. But if Rankaitis was obsessed with origins, she was also channeling the future, the brave new world of technological imagining that gave birth to photography in one era and to brain scans and gene sequencing in another – but also equally to weapons of mass destruction. For a 1990s installation, she even wrapped her abstractions around a recycled missile nosecone. Conceptual ambitions aside, her surface investigations were also a form of painting by other means, well in advance of today’s Mariah Robertson and Matthew Brandt. She was exploring the textures, colors, translucency, and transcription of light made possible by analogue photographic materials.