About the Photographer
American, b. 1979
For his series Modifications Curtis Mann appropriates and refashions vernacular photographs of Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, and Kenya—places where a conflict seems deeply rooted and even impossible to resolve. Mann states, "I question what I've learned about these places and I realize I usually have to erase most of that knowledge and begin again—more open-minded, more curious, and more hopeful than before." Submitting the found images to intensive physical alterations Mann filters them through a new visual vocabulary. Because his photographs resist a sense of stable meaning, they invite individual interpretation and a more abstract, even imaginative consideration of what it means to live in a place overcome by war.
After collecting photographs from photo-sharing websites, estate sales, and online auctions, Mann enlarges them and paints certain parts of the photographs with a clear varnish. When he submerges these prints in household bleach the varnished areas resist the bleach while the untreated portions of the image are washed away. As a result, large sections of each photograph are replaced by a bright white void or a blank space ready for projection, while at its edges gradients of red and yellow bear faint traces of the original image. The varnished areas depict clusters of people or fragments of buildings, fully visible but isolated in these otherworldly landscapes.
In each of these works Mann carries out a complex negotiation between photography's documentary capacity and its suggestive, fictionalizing properties. More generally, his process involves a give and take between creation and destruction. As the bleach strips the picture away Mann probes the limits of photographic credibility. Everything that remains in his photographs takes on a new metaphorical charge. In this manner he guides us towards a visceral engagement with the photographic image itself while heightening our sense of its vulnerabilities. Showing photography to be an eminently malleable medium, Mann provides a gentle reminder that digital imaging might not be such a new world after all.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Curtis Mann completed a BA in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Dayton, Ohio (2002) before turning to photography and completing an MFA at Columbia College (2008). Mann frequently exhibits with Kavi Gupta, Chicago and Berlin; Almine Rech, Paris and Brussels; Monica de Cardenas, Milano; Kusseneers Gallery, Antwerp; and Luce Tallery in Torino, Italy, among many other national and international exhibitions that include the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2009), and the Whitney Biennial (2010). Mann currently lives and works in San Diego, California.