John Massey’s suite of six prints of digitally scanned collages, titled Black on White, presents an explosion of words: letters, numbers, punctuation marks bursting forward from a blank background. They fairly scream out an attempt to evoke the “now” of utter contemporaneity.
The works begin with individual words and photographs found in books, magazines and period films. Massey then identifies fragments, which act as foci for his tense energy, taking the work from meticulously hand-cut black paper on a white surface to its final containment in blunt black frames. Their painstaking arrangement in eddies and lines recalls the Italian Futurists’ “words in liberty” (parole in libertà) of the early twentieth century. The titles offer clues to meaning: Auto indicates auto-didacticism, discovery through personal action. Similarly, One insists on subjectivity, the necessity of constantly becoming. Flame-like images suggest lust and frenetic, insistent movement.
This new suite of prints moves radically forward from Massey’s recent photo works such as After le Mépris (2010), replicating interiors from Godard’s classic film with surprising pools of water or striking coloured objects inserted by Photoshop, or the earlier installations and films. With Black on White, a submerged narrative remains as a palimpsest of discordant impulses, a mirror of our world at large. Leaving behind elegant metaphor and subtle insinuation, Massey’s dynamic new prints engage a brash and noisy outside world with new energy and a revised personal model for living.