Marina Pinsky, Department of Water and Power at Workspace

Marina Pinsky, untitled work from Department of Water and Power, image courtesy Workspace and taken from Paul Pescador's Flickr stream

It was late in my conversation with Paul Pescador when I learned that Marina Pinsky declines to title her photographs and rejects even the clumsy but common moniker “Untitled.” I wondered to myself – why? Pinsky by this time of the reception was swarmed with friends and not available for this question, so still I wonder what happens when one loses the ability to point and state, “That one.”

On another hand, what if the photos, with their depictions of mundane commodities and their matter of fact, if grandiose, overall title “Department of Water and Power” exist in some way as one thing, the way water and power all over the world are one thing that can be channeled for individual uses but still exist as part of a larger whole. Notions of entropy aside, the universe is a closed system and nothing is ever lost or gained, things might change state but mass and the energy are timeless. I risk imputing a characteristic from one body of work to an entire practice, and this is a risk of seeing and trying to think about an artist’s work for the first time. I am like one of those storybook blind men with their elephant: do I have a trunk or a tail? Am I smelling a belly or feeling a toe?

When I asked Pinsky about her overall title she told me that, “DWP sounds so official! I like that.” She stated this without guile and with no irony in her voice – I think that she does appreciate her cameras ability to grant institutional status to building materials, food bits, light bulbs, and odd social ephemera from the former Soviet Union as well as contemporary Los Angeles. I imagine that she also takes pleasure in assembling and culling her images and objects – for the artist uses both in her photographs – the double powers of collecting and imaging are seductive!

Marina Pinsky, from the exhibition Department of Water and Power at Workspace

I talked more with Pescador in the back gallery space, where the above image was installed. “This picture intimidates the hell out of me,” he said, “she’s using a 4 x 5 camera and terribly complicated lighting AND she’s got to shoot the picture from a really awkward angle – I can’t imagine.”

As an aside – this intimidatingly technical aspect of photography, so compelling to practitioners and so dis-interesting to simpler viewers, is part of what challenges camera work right now. We all admire and are amazed! But – such nerdery could easily condemn the practice of photography to a dull, fussbudgety future on the sidelines, or – in the right hands – such fetishization might be properly queered and achieve some sort of ‘nerd-vana’ that fascinates and informs. Fingers are crossed.

I appreciate the awkwardness and weird matter-of-fact presence of Pinsky’s photos. I like that the artist plunks me down amidst her own Rose Bowl swap meet of cultural association and leaves me to wonder… well, Marina Pinsky, are you placing American bricks, light bulbs sold in the US, and rice and bread from local sources – are you placing these on top of Russian adverts and consumer signage as autobiography?

Marina Pinsky, see above

And your use of a 4 x 5 camera for picturing these mundane things, is this like using a laser scalpel to cut something big and gross, where an axe would do as well? I take it that you want me to pay attention – your pictures fair shout in whispers, their details are perfect in a way that is more than real. I suspect that the ideas you are working with echo both the large scale and the specificity of the photographs as objects.

By the way, a sculptural installation by Pinsky occupies the window wall of this small space. This site will be familiar to anyone who has visited Workspace, it has confounded more than one artist. Marina Pinsky aces it. Her brick partition feels like architecture and like art. It seems to have been there always, or it suggests that it be allowed to remain. You know that I am a hearty romantic so I am not afraid to tell you that I think the ancients worshiped on this suddenly hallowed ground, crouching before that wall, and the neighborhood of Five Points grew up around it. Go see.

P.S. Pinsky’s arranging skills are odd, when you do see the wall try to follow her pattern. Try even to find her pattern. So cool.

Workspace website:

Marina Pinsky, sculptural installation at Workspace. Image I imagine to be by Paul Pescador.

1 Comment

  1. I wonder, are young photographers now uniquely adept at making sculptures? Is it simply that several whom I know are thus equipped? Historically is there much precedent for what I am seeing? Does anyone else think about this?


  1. Workspace » Blog Archive » Marina Pinsky | Department of Water and Power (Nov. 5th) - [...] Press from Marina Pinsky: Department of Water and Power Notes on Looking Photograph [...]

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