The work on view seen on Saturday in three hours of Chelsea gallery going, was surprisingly satisfying. Oftentimes, an afternoon can be spent looking at galleries, and my reaction is little more than a shrug of the shoulders. From this last foray, I have four shows which I can recommend.
David Maisel at Von Lintel gallery (555 W. 25th) This is a continuation of Maisel’s accomplished aerial photographic studies of damaged and abused environments. “It looks like a painting’’ has been a cliched appraisal of many photographs. Because we seldom see the bird’s eye view, we can be seduced by the novelty of seeing the ordinary from the air. Maisel’s photographs navigate the shoals of these two aesthetic pitfalls,producing images that stimulate formally, spatially, and conceptually. Flying over the Great Salt Lake which has been diked and bermed in various industrial operations, Maisel fixes with his camera these ephemeral and unintentional earthwork compositions. The palette of his subject is extraordinary, but Maisel shows particular sensitivity to drawing, line, and ambiguous space. As in painterly illusion, that which is flat becomes spacial and volumetric. Maisel is intuitively sensitive to the expressive potential of photography, and produces images with this technical medium that are faultlessly precise and unusually vivid.
Christian Marclay at Paula Cooper Gallery. Marclay has applied his sensibilities to photographic materials. Using 12” transparent vinyl records as “negatives” Marclay made a series of photograms by placing the record directly along with some long human hairs on the color print material, and then exposing the assembly to light, producing cobalt blue prints of the grooves of the record, now white tracings against the blue ground. Adding to the regularity of the record grooves, the hairs cross over the grooves and flow out from the circumference of the record. After much deliberation, I purchased one of these. Other photo- grams incorporate hands and record sleeves. . Another group of prints was made by putting the record in a photographic enlarger, and making a print as if the record was a negative. The resulting prints are made from approximately 1/4 of the record, the image being comprised of the radial grooves of the record. Because of the high magnification of the record, the grooves render as wavering lines drawn by an unsteady hand. This is surprising and intelligent work.
Kim Keever at Feigen Contemporary. The world of constructed photography grows more complex with each year, and Keever adds his own world view. As if seen through a porthole that has just emerged from beneath water, these very lurid fabricated images are illusively rich and add upon the work of Thomas Demand, Oliver Boborg and Sonja Braas.
Tanyth Berkeley at Bellwether (134 10th Ave) Color Portraits made mostly of young women and adolescent girls. Berkeley approached he models on the street and invited them to sit for a portrait. The photographer’s selection shows a particular line of investigation: that of women who are the polar opposite of the beautifully complexioned perfectly proportioned visages that are seen on TV and in magazines. Upon seeing this work, it is uncertain as to whether or not this enterprise has been done with a somewhat cruel selective process. Berkeley has made fairly straight forward portraits in the outdoors with natural ligh and the portraits yield little affect, either of the artist’s sensibilities or of the subjects’ personalities. Viewed independently, no one photograph breaks no new ground visually or conceptually, but in aggregate, the show did stick in my mind. That the women sitting in Berkeley’s gaze are unattractive is inarguable, and she hasn’t tried to make them pretty. But it is not clear that she hasn’t collected her subjects simply to make an exploitative treatise on beauty. This notion is open to discussion. Also in her show were one irrelevant landscape and a few lack luster full figure photographs of men. Perhaps this is an artist whose work should be followed, rather than committed to at this moment.