Clouds, electronics, fog, bugs, glass, cellophane, rust, weeds, waves, particles: Mike Slack (born 1970) delves into an overheated terrestrial ecosystem in his new book The Transverse Path (or Nature’s Little Secret), surveying a luminous topography of monumental details and mundane vistas alike with cosmic curiosity. Transcendental in mood, Slack’s vaguely sci-fi photographs envision a sun-blasted wilderness of synthetic and organic stuff tangled together, flourishing and disintegrating on its own terms, as if engaged in an ageless negotiation (or flirtation?) just beyond our grasp. Where does nature end and its opposite begin? And where do people figure into this balance?
Made primarily around the American Southwest from 2011 to 2017, these vivid photographs—like a series of thought bubbles in search of a narrative—are concise and direct, yet driven by an emotional ambivalence that hovers between stark environmental dread and calm intimate reverie.
Mike Slack lives and works in Los Angeles. His books include Walking in Place 1: New Orleans, Shrubs of Death, Ok Ok Ok, Scorpio, and Pyramids. His photographs are in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Mike Slack’s Pyramids builds on the striking Polaroid aesthetic of his previous books, Ok Ok Ok (2002) and Scorpio (2006), rounding out a trilogy of stand-alone volumes that together contain 123 pictures. This collection records everyday details of what could be a recent past or a very near future--a dust storm in the desert, simple geometry, stairways and windows, schoolchildren on a field trip--quietly dramatic scenes energized by a sense of anticipation rather than nostalgia. Presented as physical artifacts of fictitious events to be deciphered by the viewer, the pictures also document the travels, observations and graphic fixations of the photographer, centering on a set of three identical early 1970s office buildings (in Slack's hometown of Indianapolis), from which the book takes its title.
In his second book of Polaroids, Scorpio, Mike Slack charts a familiar but undetermined terrain through fragments of architecture, geology and space. Designed as a companion to Ok Ok Ok (2002), this collection begins with what appears to be a fallen asteroid and ends with what might be a stray, mythical dog--evocative bookends to a kind of travel narrative (or psychic puzzle) in which Slack's mastery of the Polaroid medium infuses commonplace observations with hints of a lingering, otherworldly past.
Originally published in 2002 by J&L Books, OK OK OK quickly sold out. It was described by Printed Matter as "a series of beautifully composed Polaroids. Sequenced like a dream, the nameless places and close-up abstractions...belong together but to a different time, or maybe a different world."
First published in 2006 in a limited run of 75 copies, Los Angeles photographer Mike Slack’s High Tide has now been issued in this expanded edition. It collects a series of Polaroid close-ups of actors photographed in apparent states of calm or contemplation. "More like meditating than acting," Jeffrey Ladd wrote (of the 2006 limited edition), "each seems to have momentarily dropped their profession and found a personal truth." Slack, a veteran of Polaroid photography (as evidenced by his previous volumes OK, OK, OK, Scorpio and Pyramids), achieves a peculiar tension in these images, between their apparent serenity and their multiple layers of artifice.