Sasha Wolf Gallery, New York
Through May 1, 2010
by Nicole J. Caruth
Adam Schreiber, UT, 2007
Adam Schreiber’s small solo exhibition at Sasha Wolf Gallery is largely inspired by his research at three archival facilities: the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, and J. J. Pickle Research Center. The connection between these annals is, to an Austin outsider, as much a mystery as the artist’s photographs. Schreiber’s mixed bag of images—an old switchboard, a model moon, a set of toothbrushes with a presidential seal, a nigh-lit stadium and a forest landscape, for instance—look entirely unrelated rather than, as the exhibition title Anachronic implies, out of chronological order. This might compel one, just as archives do, to dig.
However, the history behind Schreiber’s subjects is only slightly more engaging than the photos themselves.  Upon consultation of this history, Schreiber’s photographs, like the scrambled pieces of a boxed puzzle, start to make sense in view of the bigger picture. His rejection of linear and written narrative affirms the obvious: how we view objects is largely a result of how they’re framed.
Nothing speaks to this more than View from the Window at Le Gras, 1826 (2009), an image of the first known photograph taken by the Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and held in the Ransom Center collection. Displayed underneath multiple frames, including one made of Plexiglas and airtight steel, Schreiber’s framing of the image adds yet another layer and removes the viewer further from the object. The act of preservation, then, obscures rather than reveals. In our present moment of digital and increasingly unrestricted images, the impermeable bubble around Le Gras is a portrait of progress that makes you kind of chuckle.
Archives are often filled with mundane things that, when taken out of the context, are utterly meaningless. Schreiber’s inkjet prints—on archival paper no less— present objects and structures so plainly that they are doubly mind numbing. General Motors (I), 1939, and General Motors (II), 1939 (both 2009), two anonymous white prototypes set against a white background, is where Anachronic starts to get stylistically interesting. Metallic tints, stark backgrounds, or hints of red light cast objects such as these into a futuristic and paranormal realm. UT (2007), and 2000 (2010), two different construction sites or quasi landscapes, are creepily empty. In science fiction horror films, these would be the moments when everyone has vanished and you, the viewer, are made to feel like the last human being on Earth. These ghostly scenes might in fact symbolize the greatest fear of technological advancement: that humans will no longer be necessary.
At times Anachronic looks too much like an archive filled with individual characterless objects. Where the exhibition does well is in the mysterious atmosphere created by the entire group. And that is precisely the nature of archives.
 In 1949, the University of Texas at Austin purchased the Pickle Research campus, a place where pioneering discoveries were made in nuclear physics and space flight. The acquisition was made with the help of Lyndon B. Johnson, merely a congressman at the time, who would, during his Senate years, nurture the United States space program. In 1957, the same year that Johnson passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, the Harry Ransom Center, named for the former chancellor of the University, was officially founded. In a trivial but strange coincidence, Johnson became the thirty-sixth President of the United States on Ransom’s fifty-fifth birthday. The President would later ask a group of individuals to support the construction of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on University grounds. Ransom was among this group of allies.
Nicole J. Caruth is a freelance writer and curator based in Brooklyn. A regular blogger for Art21, her writing has been published by the Studio Museum in Harlem, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, NYFA Current, CUE Art Foundation, and Gastronomica. Her personal blog, Contemporary Confections, merges two of her greatest loves: art and sweet foodstuffs.