A number of Ari Marcopoulos’ books arrived at the museum this week in plenty of time for his lecture/book signing on Jan.22. So I finally got my hands on a copy of his book The Chance Is Higher which was published in 2008 by Dashwood Books.
The book includes reproductions of large-scale photocopies that Ari made from his original photographs – portraits of his family, friends, and acquaintances interspersed with city views, graffiti, still life, and nudes; he even includes a few older portraits of Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat. An eerie and mesmerizing image of a skull – a tattoo on the back of a shirtless boy – floats beneath the embossed title and a fine pattern of cross-hatch found on the cover of this book. This texture gives it an inky flattened sheen like a faded tattoo, but it is reminiscent of a well-worn tapestry or an aged mezzotint. Strangely welcoming, a ghostly continuum follows. The imagery is steeped in memory, informed by urban iconography and the more intimate personal world and perceptions of the photographer.
The images may well be faithful reproductions of Ari’s grainy black-and-white photocopies. When I first looked through the pages of The Chance Is Higher, I experienced an aesthetic throwback to the 1970s, when experimenting with a xerox machine to make a homemade comic book, zine or flyer for a friend’s rock band required some pocket change and a trip to the local library or post office to make copies. Until Ari revived it, somewhat formally for this series and the book (he has used xeroxing for years to design his other books and zines), the photocopy was an old-school but treasured method of reproduction reserved for low-brow, albeit creative endeavors. It is ingeniously recaptured here with a remarkable amount of refinement and even a low-key elegance.