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“While Gary Brotmeyer’s pictures are make-believe in the sense of being obviously fabricated, they represent an ongoing serious attempt to reconcile the meaning of many diverse and recognizable images from his own life, as well as ours. Perhaps the closest historical analogue to Gary’s work can be found in the 'fantastic realism' of Latin American literature. For a writer like Jorges Luis Borges, history (reality) is composed of endless and repeating possibilities, the significance of which is likely to be hidden from the observer in the present, or be discovered when it is too late to make any difference. There is no necessary connection between events; causality is a fiction traced in hindsight.

Despite circumstantial differences between cultures and characters, for Borges all of recorded history seems to be present in the same recurring stories. Gary’s work repeatedly centers around masks, concealment, and, like Borges, the recognition and manipulation of apparently coincidental resemblances. Emerging from the multiplicity of forms and media employed in Gary’s collages are certain recurring elements, for example, hands which often form our most direct and recognizable human contact with the works.

The interchangeability of facts and forms by Borges and Brotmeyer can be traced to surrealism, and accounts for the strong magical quality in both their work. Human drama appears almost dreamlike, acted out against an indelible landscape. As such, considerable tension results from the interplay between apparently real and obviously fictional elements. In his collages, Brotmeyer uses actual photographs to establish an emotional connection with his viewer, while juxtaposing artificial and unexpected elements on the picture surface. All of the images struggle for verification within the frame, making the portraits seem both real and unreal, mythic as well as playful.

On a literal level, Gary appropriates images and uses them for his own purposes. The turn of the century cabinet photographs which form the basis of many of the collages appear to have been chosen because the personalities they depict are dead, and as portraits project very little authority. These appropriated images are transformed into commentary on how inherited forms-style of dress, technology, economic history-play a role in shaping our identities. Perhaps most importantly Gary is well acquainted with the history of modern art, and the extent to which it influences his activity as an our artist and our perceptions as consumers. The collages are visual archeology.

Everyone is in their own world. Hence, it is ultimately difficult to say how individual history-even that of an artist such as Gary-can become intertwined with others. While the collage elements are drawn from many sources, the iconography is unmistakably American. At times, Gary’s images appear anecdotal, but taken together they comprise a uniquely American portrait designed to help us re-imagine ourselves.”

G. A. Wardle
New York City


Born New Orlean, LA 1946

Public Collections:
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art Institute of Chicago
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Anthology Film Archives
Baltimore Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
New Orleans Museum of Art
International Center of Photography
Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Australia

Solo Museum Exhibition:
1990  Art Institute of Chicago, Gary Brotmeyer Photocollages


Museum Exhibitions and Installations
2011   Queensland Art Gallery, The Fragmented Body  
2010   Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, New York NeoIntegrity
2009   Fundacion Foto Colectania, Ojos Privados
2000   Art Institute of Chicago, Optical Delusions
1998   Queensland Art Gallery
1998   New Orleans Museum of Art
1997   The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1994   Art Institute of Chicago, Issues & Identities
1994   Islip Art Museum, NY, Wit on Wry
1992   MoMA, More than One Photography
1992   MoMA, Pleasure and Terrors of Domestic Comfort
1991   Olin Art Gallery, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH
1991   Museum of Fine Arts Houston
1989   Long Beach Museum of Art, CA, Art of Music Video
1989   Aperture Foundation, Self and Shadow
1987   The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Galleries for 20th Century Art
1988   Bruce Museum, Greenwich , CT, Photographic Truth
1987   Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, Portrait: Faces of the '80s
1986   Photographer's Gallery, London, The Animal in Photography
1984   MoMA, Permanent Collection Inaugural Exhibiton (accompanied by publication)