Alexis Dahan’s Abstract Intimacy

Alexis Dahan is not a photographer—or so he tells us as he walks us through his most recent exhibition at Half Gallery, where the works on display are all giclée photo prints, and were shot on the artist’s camera in his East Village studio. Still, it isn’t hard to understand what he means: all 10 photographs are deceptively abstract, to the point that they resemble a sort of painting more than they do any photographic subject, though the black-and-whites might pass as very minimal photograms.

“The medium is secondary,” he explains. “It’s really when you’re in front of the piece and you see the lines, it doesn’t really matter where it comes from.” The pieces themselves give no indication: a lineup of infinitesimal, sinewy stripes, some in burning red, others in black and white. The only hint at their origin comes from the series’ title, The Lover’s Body Parts Are Separated.  “The viewer can have this pure experience of the forms, the same way you would look at any abstract painting. But they are photographs, so they’re coming from somewhere,” Dahan offers. “And the title links them to where they’re coming from.”

He sees the beginnings of his style in Lucio Fontana’s spatialist compositions. “The slits in the painting,” he recalls of the Argentinian artist’s work, “it’s just about heightening the contrast. You navigate between narration and abstraction without staying in one place.”

Shot over the course of four months last year, the series hints vaguely, not only at its subject, but at the subject’s relation to the artist. “It becomes a collaborative effort,” Dahan relates of his experience photographing a loved one. “You have to move around a landscape or move around an object, but with this, the person also moves around you.” In light of its title, the exhibition’s warm, fleshy tones are abstract without feeling inhuman. Its curves and crevasses are not decorative or arbitrary; they are ergonomic and deeply intimate. Within them, Dahan looks for the aesthetic equivalent of such a romantic ideal as love: pure form. “I’m trying to photograph something that’s not there,” Dahan admits.  “It’s difficult.”

The Lover’s Body Parts Are Separated is on view at Half Gallery, 208 Forsyth Street, through Dec. 30.