Shannon Ebner, Yes Tomorrow, No Tomorrow, 2006. Chromogenic color print, 32 1/8 × 40 5/8 inches (81.6 × 103.2 cm). Gift of Anthony Terrana. Courtesy the artist and Altman Siegel, San Francisco. © Shannon Ebner
To explore the relationship between verbal language and photography, Shannon Ebner literally builds letters, words, and phrases from sundry materials and then sites and photographs them. She constructs imagery using language that is itself constructed.
In Yes Tomorrow, No Tomorrow, the words are barely visible, traced in a haze of stray black paint that floats in front of the picture plane and obscures the depiction of a green and golden hill. This threshold of visibility in the photographic image mirrors the uncertainty imbued in the phrase’s oscillation of “yes” and “no.” Through such careful interposition of text and image, Ebner’s work reminds us how profoundly imbricated vision is with the material substance of things, and how much meaning depends on the context of encounter.
This photograph contributes to both the ICA/Boston’s significant holdings in photography and its growing collection of language-based works, joining selections by Leslie Hewitt, Roni Horn, Ray Navarro, Kelly Sherman, Lorna Simpson, and Sara VanDerBeek.