Once discarded, now found art

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November 1st, 2012

Omaha, NE- Bemis Underground welcomes a local artist Friday night to unveil his latest exhibit What Goes Down Must Come Up.

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Artist Brittan Rosendahl lifted large swaths of bubble wrap, unearthing two large, framed photographs.
One photo shows a woman’s legs rising above the back of a vintage couch, her red high heels hover while the rest of her body remains unseen. Next to it, a black and white photograph of a dim chapel where a man stands above children in the pews, speaking or maybe preaching.

Once a photograph of men being inducted to the Shriner’s organization, now a 3-D installation piece. (Photo courtesy Alex Priest/Bemis Underground)

“They were associated to, I believe their name is Gray,” Rosendahl said.

“We found a ton of information on these people. Scrap books, family history that dates back to the 1890s,” he said.

But these photos aren’t Rosendahl’s. He found them.

Though Rosendahl is technically a photographer, that might not be the right way to describe him. He doesn’t, quite frankly, like to be called a photographer.

He’s more of an archaeologist of photography. He does take his own photographs, but he also digs through trash cans and sifts through thrift stores looking for other people’s photography that he can breathe new life into.

Friday night, the Bemis Underground will unveil his works of “resurrection” in his exhibit What Goes Down Must Come Up.

“I’ve really been kind of trying to source these pieces, these images that I feel are very stale, that are at the end of their life span, they’re still existing kind of on the outskirts, and it’s like their last opportunity,” Rosendahl said.

“So I’m kind of selecting these things and through reworking them, putting a new sort of energy into them, and so it’s not literal resurrection, but I think the term is applicable.”

Rosendahl wants to push the discussion of photography and reworking other people’s “art” or discarded goods. He compares his methods to “sampling” in music: the borrowing, re-purposing and creating a new work with a piece of the old.

The art isn’t the image itself, it’s what he does with it.

Or maybe what makes him an artist is his eye for diamonds in the rough. Rosendahl pointed to an installation piece hanging from the ceiling. Once a photograph of dozens of men being inducted into the Shriner’s organization, now a cluster of wide cloth streamers, individual men in suits and ties layered in front of the other. Rosendahl called it a “remix” that is much more interesting than the original photograph.

Rosendahl said about the piece, “It’s just an encountered image I found at a thrift shop, and I just made prints from those, and I’m able to reorder them and create this dimensional mob out of them as opposed to just this like, linear page of flat information.”

“I think something like this is far more striking than the original photograph was,” he said.

Rosendahl’s What Goes Down Must Come Up exhibit opens Friday night at the Bemis Underground and a free discussion will take place Saturday afternoon with both Rosendahl and the curator.

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