Randy Grskovic, Carcanet, Selenium Toned Gelatin Silver Print, Open Edition (Varied), 2016

Out of all the multi-layered and fascinatingly complex images in Randy Grskovic’s show, Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, the work Carcanet is one of the more simplistic pieces. Placed in the corner of the room, yet adjacent to the front door, Carcanet does not draw immediate attention. However it’s something about the overwhelmingly deep black and the use of negative space in this image that captivates the viewer. A basketball player, wearing the cords of a severed hoop around his neck, stands and confronts the camera – and yet his face is completely obscured, fading into black at the top of the frame. Although simple in composition, the image is no less complex than Randy’s other work – both in process and in meaning.

To create this image, Randy undergoes a complex process of dodging and burning in the darkroom. After exposing the negative onto photosensitive paper, he exposes it again – this time using a card to block the light from hitting the paper – everywhere except through a small hole which he has cut in the card. He then painstakingly moves the hole back and forth across the image, allowing light to turn it black only in the places he desires. He is literally drawing with light. This process can take up to 10 minutes, sometimes long enough to create a ‘fog’, and turn the white parts of the image grey from being exposed to the red ambient lighting of the darkroom for too long. After all this time and effort, Randy still has no idea how the image will turn out until it is developed, so this process results in a lot of trial and error.  

The tradition of wearing the severed hoops dates back to the 1920s, when teams across Indiana would celebrate winning the state title by cutting down the nets to keep as souvenirs. Coaches or players would occasionally wear them around the neck as an adornment of victory. The connection can be drawn to Elizabethan neck ruffs, symbols of formality, or to royal jewelry. Randy finds this tradition intriguing because of the meaning we place on objects and symbols. The hoop is worn as a symbol of victory, but it is in essence made only of inexpensive nylon.

This image embodies victory, success, elation – yet we will never know who this victory belongs to. This is very intentional. Not only has Randy obscured the player’s face with light, but he has printed this negative backwards, reversing the team name and number. This image is about objectivity. It is about what the viewer reads into it, and the symbolism that he or she might project onto it. It is not important to this piece to know who this champion is.

What do you make of this image? Come see for yourself!

Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust is on at BAF from now until May 14.

Text by Alexandra Best