Notes from the Arts + Crafts Research Studio of Andrew Cornell Robinson
Objects of fiction and fantasy abound in the exhibition Doubletake at the Schroeder Romero Gallery. This group photography exhibition of ten emerging artists makes connections between creative strategies which range from staged fictive narratives and artificial settings resulting in a broad range of disquieting and compelling visions which bend reality to suit their needs.
Candid shots of the rich and powerful in compromising positions are always a crowd pleaser and Alison Jackson’s photographs tap into an inner voyeur. In her photograph titled “Elton Has A Colonic” an Elton John look-a-like stands naked except for his sunglasses as he bends over straddling a hospital bed while a masked nurse inserts a very long hose up his ass. In another fuzzy image we find George Bush with a shit eating grin on his face as he cops a feel of the secretary of state. All of them are fakes, the photographic scenes I mean.
Nick Wallington’s photograph “Carbon Monoxide Poisoning” presents a dark and almost comic scene of a compact car parked on a derelict urban street. A hose is taped at one end to the tail pipe and the other inserted into the window of a car. The widows are foggy and opaque from the resulting exhaust buildup obscuring the occupant and motive within.
On the sweeter, nearly saccharine spectrum of the exhibition are the works of Caroline McCarthy whose papier-mâché “Still-Life” adds a colorful and iconic play with the traditional take on fruit on a table. The weird pastel tones have a chalky appearance and are muddied the way a Giorgio Morandi painting might be if he’d had the same heap of fruit before him.
Simen Johan’s wicked little narrative snapshots of kids offer a perverted picture of childhood. In one photo “untitled #78” a small boy wearing tight shorts appears to do a little jig before another child who is severely cropped out of the picture. The image at first appears so innocent. Perhaps something from a family album, but upon closer inspection the picture begins to open up to other interpretations. The young boy’s crotch has an apparent bulge and his pose appears to thrust his hips forward in a cocky tough boy manner. The clouds in the background are not clouds at all but aerial jet streams which twirl about in a daredevil air show above. The photograph has layers of power and foreboding, and even if the image is meaningless the picture is memorable.
Brothers Carlos and Jason Sanchez collaborate to create elaborate and improbable psychological settings. They condense their images to the most important moment and utilize manufactured spaces to capture impossible angles within their bold color photos. In “Pink Bathroom” the perspective is intentionally exaggerated and although its affect is subtle the result is somewhat unnerving as much of the attention is placed upon a soaked androgynous figure peering out from behind a pink tiled wall. The pristine setting is jarred by heaps of dirt or shit on the floor. The resulting imaginary setting creates this unhinged narrative allowing many interpretations and yet something unseemly simmers in the psychological background.
Many of the artists in this exhibition play on the edge of a psychological sweetness. Artists such as Susan Graham, Walter Martin, Paloma Munoz and others tap into a perverse way of seeing which on the surface uses aesthetics and old fashion narrative to play with humorous and palatable emotions, but as the gaze lingers the narrative within the pictures begin to unravel. There is a rejection of a notion of pure innocence in these collective tales. I am reminded of the way in which author William Golding introduced his optimistic cast of characters in “Lord of the Flies”. This charming group of pictures much like Golding’s group of English choir boys appear filled with some sense of humor, and perhaps even an ironic optimism as they are stranded on an island together and yet as the gaze lingers in this exhibition like the stranded boys on the island, that pure innocence begins to unravel and the “nice” surface qualities of a first impression tarnish and point out through a false and manufactured mythology something unsettling and worth seeing.
By Andrew Cornell Robinson Written for the
Doubletake, June 2006
Schroeder Romero Gallery
637 West 27th Street New York, NY 10001212-630-0722 www.schroederromero.com
Artists: Susan Graham, Alison Jackson, Simen Johan, Walter Martin & Paloma Munoz, Caroline McCarthy, Carlos and Jason Sanchez, Wendy Small, Nick Waplington