Since the beginning of the pandemic, Chicago book and paper artist Leah Mayers has been working on Syncope, a series of palimpsests created by layering pairs of photographs, one from before COVID-19, one from after. The resulting 4 x 6 image meldings manifest the surrealistic unthinkableness of current times. In “Sing Sign over Jeff,” a poster announcing a sidewalk community sing-a-long is positioned over the face of a friend, nodding to a new type of social gathering while conjuring the masks that have become required outdoor gear. In another picture, the pavement of a downtown Chicago street, loosely filled with protesters demanding rent forgiveness, uncannily fills with thick clouds, marking the unreality of it all. “Claus at Work” is the series’ eeriest, a gritty black-and-white portrait of a person in head-to-toe PPE, a single-point-perspective hallway receding behind their head with terrible finality. How might Syncope evolve as the months, maybe years, tick by? Although Mayers’s image pairings have a before-and-after conception, the after isn’t after COVID-19, it’s after its discovery. For now, we remain in a state of during, one that will be endured at least partly through art.
—Lori Waxman 2020-07-24 10:52 AM