“Every artist was first an amateur” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the back office of Moskowitz Bayse, Anthony Lepore’s semi-phallic photographic work, He Kneaded Me For a While (2018), has taken up temporary residence, having been edited out of his solo show, Performance Anxiety. The piece depicts a hand kneading and stretching a ball of dough, pulling it through various circular openings. Despite its relegation to the backroom, the work, with its homophonous title, conveys a notion essential to the exhibition: that when mundane labors like working flour and water into dough are performed in the name of art-making, they return, eventually, to their domestic lives.
Lepore constructed his photographs on shelf-like props in which he staged various objects: school pictures, eggs, balloons, or family pets. The photographs find their final form in complex frames, trompe l’oeil replicas of the shelves in which they were made. In Disappearing Act (2019), Muybridge-esque photographs track a cat’s movement in and out of holes in the shelves. Wide holes cut in the frame’s side invite you to peer inside in hopes of seeing the elusive animal–except there’s only empty space behind the photographs. Isolated from their domestic roles, framed in false replicas of the original, Lepore’s subjects participate in a playful, private tableaux made for the camera. Via his dimensional framing, Lepore simultaneously reinforces the flatness of the photographs and gives them more stable footing, as they are sculpturally elevated into objecthood.
The only work in the exhibition that includes text, The Last Apology (2019), features five photographs, each portraying a balloon letter stuck inside a border of protruding nails, together spelling out S-O-R-R-Y. Hung beside a joyous family portrait of Lepore, his partner, and their many pets (More Than a Hunch, 2019), Lepore’s Apology gestures to the emotional life that takes place on the periphery, beyond and around the space of the staged image. Their proximity to Hunch makes the inflated letters seem less slick gimmick (an easy pitfall of work that so heavily fetishizes photography’s descriptive ability), and more a genuine attempt to speak to the complex dynamics of relationships (in life, and in art).
In Apology, we see something to the reverse of Kneaded: rather than an interruption of action, the work, and its making, become the action—a labor-intensive offering that might play a role in real-life circumstances. Made to communicate the mundane expression of regret (or lack thereof), it serves as a reminder of the slippage between and uses for, art in real life. We might knead the dough with the intent of making a picture, but later bake it into bread, eat it together, and not be sorry.
Anthony Lepore: Performance Anxiety runs from May 11–June 29, 2019, at Moskowitz Bayse (743 N. La Brea Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038).