‘Anonymous’ was the highlight of visiting photography exhibitions in New York’s Chelsea gallery district this afternoon.Part of the System and Vision exhibit at David Zwirner, featuring ‘artists whose unique ideas developed outside the circuit of art world institutions’ (code perhaps for outsider art), these black and white Polaroids of famous female actresses had a dark but methodical undertone. Each featured an actress in performance, perhaps from the cinema screen or tv, with the subject’s name and, sometimes measurements, in pen on the edges of the pictures. The archive of ‘Type 42’ is almost a thousand strong and pointed towards Cindy Sherman and the fascination of old black and movies with a slightly sinsister undertone. And the actresses were clearly performing. (Above: Ursula Andress.)
The question of when performance is convincing in a photograph was highlighted in the next door Zwirner gallery with the Phillip-Loca diCorcia show. This ‘East of Eden’ work featuring biblical references in its titles seemed to be pointing toward an empty excess and and, at times, redeeming natural world. As in other diCorcia work, people in these large scale colour photographs were posed to express metaphorical meanings. However, the question beyond the intellectual underpinnings is, does the work engage and for the most part these images seemed like stiff posturing without a psychological current. Interestingly the sold out, or almost sold out, images of the $30 – 60,000 editions of eight were of dogs seemingly watching pornography in The Hamptons or of scenes with a healthy dollop of nature.
Elsewhere at Yancy Richardson, Czech photographer Jitka Hanzlova presented delicate pastel views of horses. Although photographed with an eye for texture and intimacy, and beautifully printed, the decorative edge to the work made it less than engaging.