Exhibition: George Byrne / Post Truth @ Melrose

As a new show to celebrate the second edition of his monograph Post Truth opens at Paul Smith Melrose, we spoke to artist George Byrne about his idiosyncratic sense of colour, what LA means to him and the malleability of photography.

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If you could pick one thing that unites Paul Smith and artist George Byrne it would be colour. Not just an appreciation of it, but also an idiosyncratic way of working with palettes and tone. It’s fitting, then, that George’s work is the subject of a new exhibition at our fuchsia pink Melrose store in LA. Open now, the month-long immersive installation will cover material featured in his recent monograph Post Truth, which is now in its second edition and includes a print of the Paul Smith store itself.

That affection for the metropolis is reflected in his pieces: his sublime spaces don’t exist in real life, but they look like they should (or at least we want them to), manifesting what critic Ian Volner dubbed an “uncanny artificiality”. Beautiful as they are, it’s hard to deny they’re what one might call ‘gram-worthy’, just as it’s equally hard to deny they don’t share the social media platform’s underlying artifice. “I also know that I can't escape the fact that I'm in a medium that was built on being a truthful medium [but] there is a philosophical discussion going on about the role of photography and the role of truth in photography,” George explains. “I'm right in the middle of this thing. I’m trying to take this evil process and use it for good… I hope.”

“I guess the easiest way of saying it is I see a roll photograph as a block of clay. It’s now just a starting point It’s something to work with to shape into wherever image emerges once I start the process of looking,” he says. “Much of today’s photography has turned into observation with no other deeper meaning required… We are allowed to be flippant and casual and almost blindly exploratory. It's no longer a luxury.”

Whatever it does become, again, somewhat ironically, there’s an honesty to the way that George presents his work to the world, even if the work itself is imagined. “I wanted to be upfront and transparent about what I'm doing,” he says. “Even the name, Post Truth, it couldn’t be any clearer… I’m playing into all those tropes and all those things we love and hate about the direction of how photography is going.”

Ultimately art has never been about having all the answers ­– least of all about a medium that is constantly evolving with the world around it – but George does at least know that he wants his work to radiate positivity. “I hope the show is a truly immersive,” he says. “I want people to walk in and feel uplifted by the space.”

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