Review by Douglas Stockdale •
TJ Norris has recently released his first monograph, Shooting Blanks, that investigates the potential abstract and graphic patterns created by commercial signage that is in a state of disuse or disrepair, aspects of the modern urban landscape. That these signs are now “blank” is a small aspect of this body of work but provides a wonderful working title for his body of work.
What the reader encounters are the truncated compositions that Norris creates in documenting these standing edifices constructed of iron, steel, wood, and ensnarled with electrical conduit that once made these commercial signs viable. His framing creates a minimalist composition that harkens back to the graphic shapes of the Abstract Expressionists paintings by Frank Kline and the ensuring photographic work by Aaron Siskind. Found compositions that with tight framing create abstract forms and shapes.
Norris’s images are both lyrical and muscular; a two-dimensional reduction of lines, shapes, mass, textures and color. The tight framing is exclusionary; creating ambiguous images as to the related environmental context or vagueness related to his subject’s size. By association we might expect to see the interconnected commercial structures also in a state of disrepair or abandonment as hinted at by these towering structures. The desolate signs now function more as a tombstone for something that is dead and decaying. These are sign-posts for despoiled dreams; symbols of places where someone once was envisioning prosperity but are now looming reminders of events that have gone terribly wrong.
I suspect that these rusting and downtrodden signs could be symbols of the economic conditions related to its urban location, but without more environmental context it appears that these were spot opportunities for Norris to explore the resulting graphic shapes. These sign-posts also have sculptural attributes in the way that Norris presents his subjects. We can sense the solid mass and weight as well as revealing the qualities of form and shape.
These sign’s missing signage is also visual intriguing; what is the missing message, why is there a blank, what has happened, what might follow? A blank is a void; a lull in the communications and a mute sign signifying something is missing and that something appears out of sorts. Questions that Norris teases us with and that allow us to wonder.
TJ Norris – Shooting Blanks
Photographer: TJ Norris, born Boston, MA and resides Fort Worth, TX (USA)
Publisher: NoPeriodsPress, Texas, copyright 2004–2018
Essays: Dennis Jelonnek and Colin Edgington
Stiff cover book, perfect bound, four-color lithography, with captions, limited edition (E 100), printed in USA
Photobook designer: TJ Norris