Shannon Ebner works primarily in photography. For Ebner, photography is a form of writing and writing is a way of seeing. A consistent element in Ebner’s work is that it treats language as a material form. Over the past two decades, Ebner has made four typefaces by photographing materials that are fashioned into Latin alphabets. These alphabets have ranged in scale from six feet to eight feet to the size of an outstretched hand. The materials that Ebner has worked with to make the photographic alphabets are assembled here: corrugated cardboard with box cutters (Dead Democracy Letters, 2001 – 2006), concrete masonry units, also called cinderblocks or breezeblocks for a modular steel peg system (STRIKE, 2007 – 2011), light emitting diodes (LED) as found on the traffic control devices called portable changeable message signs (The Electric Comma and Auto Body Collision, 2011 – 2015), and most recently paper letters made with the custom typeface Helvetica Autospaced that were temporarily affixed to walls using water (WET LETTER ALPHABET from WET WORDS IN A HOT FIELD, 2019 – ). For each of the photographic alphabets mentioned above, Ebner has selected specific materials based on their self-reflexive relationship to the subject of the writing itself. Each photographic typeface is in essence a material response to the various cultural conditions and societal pressures at hand.
For Ebner’s leporello, the meteorological term RIME ICE is its single subject, though the phenomenon itself falls into two categories, soft or hard rime. In either case it is rime ice that forms when liquid droplets comprised of supercooled water freeze onto surfaces. RIME ICE is an outtake from Ebner’s recent exhibition FRET SCAPES (2022). FRET is acronym for the Forecast Reference Evapotranspiration Report, a report that is generated by climate scientists to measure the rate at which water that falls to the ground will evaporate to the sky.
“The poem FRET is comprised of seventeen screen compositions that are written with the WET LETTER alphabet, a holdover from a show called WET WORDS IN A HOT FIELD (2019). The WET LETTER alphabet was constructed with a set of paper letters approximately the size of an outstretched hand. To photograph the letters, I pasted them to the inside of a building with water. Handling the wet letters was a delicate act. By the time I would get from A-Z the letters would dry and fall to the ground. Sometimes a corner or edge might keep its grip, but most would succumb to gravity quickly, leaving the photographed environment looking like an alphabetic field in disarray, a vanishing act of language. And so the process went like this, a series of water intrusions enacted for a camera on a paper alphabet. Thin and pliable, not quite typographically black, more like photographically ashen, the alphabet became weakened by the laborious process of its rising and falling under the spell of the camera’s steady lens.”
– Shannon Ebner
For The Leporello Series, ll’Editions has invited a select group of international artists to contribute. Each artist is given carte blanche, restricted only by the accordion format and its ten panels (recto). To date, participating artists include (in order of appearance) Heimo Zobernig, Micah Lexier, Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press, Ryan Gander, Shannon Ebner, Maurizio Nannucci, Karl Holmqvist and Jonathan Monk.
Inhabiting a space between book and paper sculpture, the Leporellos are printed on delicate Mohawk Superfine Eggshell paper. Each volume in the series is limited to 250 numbered copies and come in a bespoke rigid box, with the title hot foiled both on its front and on its spine, allowing it to sit comfortably in a bookshelf when not on display.
Shannon Ebner (b. 1971, New Jersey) lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions have been presented at the Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford; ICA Miami, Miami; Fondazione Memmo, Rome, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and MoMA PS1, New York. Ebner’s work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions at museums and institutions such as Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; V-A-C Foundation, Venice; Tate Modern, London; Whitechapel Gallery, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; CCA Wattis, San Francisco; ICA Boston, Boston; Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow; and Künstlerhaus, Klagenfurt; among others. Ebner was included in the 10th edition of Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool; the 31st Biennial of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana; the Daegu Photo Biennial, South Korea; the 54th Venice Biennale, Venice; the 6th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art, Venice; and the 2008 Whitney Biennial, New York. Ebner’s work is included in numerous public collections in both the US and abroad. She is currently chairperson of the Photography Department at Pratt Institute where she is also the series editor for Pounds Per Image (PPI), a Pratt Photography Imprint that is co-published by Dancing Foxes Press. Ebner’s publishing projects include STRAY: A Graphic Tone (Fono/Roma, 2019), A Public Character (Roma Publications, 2015), Auto Body Collision (Carnegie Museum of Art, 2014), STRIKE (Mousse, 2013) and A Sun as Error (LACMA, 2009). Her website/publication STRAY WORLD will be published by Source Type in 2022.