Rob Tarbell: Smoke Screens

The show features portraits created using Tarbell’s signature methodology: transferring smoke to paper. Using unconventional methods and materials – burning plastic credit cards and 35mm slides – dark wisps of smoke swirl up to paper suspended over his head.

“It’s an ironic nod to self-help techniques of burning away sentimental things and thoughts to remove their emotional or historical burden,” he says. “I’m destroying one thing to make a new thing.”

Over the past decade, fashioning tools and customizing equipment as he went, Tarbell pioneered breakthroughs in printmaking. Now by manipulating angles, distances and durations, he – literally – captures a moment in a puff of smoke.

The imagery originated in a fascination with Crime Times, a weekly tabloid that publishes mug shots. Inspired by the shots of alleged criminals, as well as self-portraits and photographs of family and friends, Tarbell’s explores themes of identity, celebrity, infamy and public presumption and perception.

 Each work combines artistic control with spontaneous natural energy, resulting in intimately intense portraits that simultaneously present truth and illusion through the ephemeral medium of smoke.