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June 10, 2004

Some Artist Updates, C-Print Soap Operas, and Gas Stations as Totems


Some updates and new links:

* I wrote a while back about seeing a sampling of Sebastiaan Bremer's drawn-on C-prints in In Magazine (in this post), and at the time his U.S. presence was still pretty limited. His visibility is gradually growing, thanks to the currently running Open House in Brooklyn exhibition. The web still isn't the greatest place to observe the delicacy of his work, but at least the Roebling Hall Gallery website has larger sized and more current samples, some of which look pretty interesting. (thanks to Paige West's excellent Art Addict for the reference)

bremer_goliath

"Goliath" Sebastiaan Bremer Ink on C-Print

* An interesting magazine I just became aware of: Slingshot Magazine (courtesy of gallery hopper)...from their statement: "Slingshot's mandate is simple: to bind unconventional and compelling visual and literary arts in a way that has complicity, intelligence and life. The writing must be visual, and the visuals, a good read.". (in this respect, I'm reminded of Blind Spot, which also combines contemporary leading lights in fiction and photography, but Slingshot skews more toward writing and Blind Spot more toward photography).

Combining words and images in synergistic ways is probably more compellingly done in the hard copy magazine...I'm assuming this because Slingshot's online layout is spartan in some areas, cluttered in others...the images are often highly compressed, and the dense texts are difficult to read (let alone absorb and appreciate) on the screen the way they're presented. Based on the few issues available on the web, the layout is gradually improving, and they do employ an interesting array of photographers, such as Eri Morita (whose Family Drama series is unsettling but also humanistic), Lisa Kereszi, whose portraits and interiors stand out for their color and skewed perspective (bigger collection of images for the Flash-phobic here), and Michael Ackerman, whose blurry black and white night scenes work evoke Daido Moriyama...here's a small sampling from his series "Smoke", and here's a larger portfolio.

Here's an interview with Andrea Ryder, the editor of Slingshot...I look forward to future issues, as she seems well-intentioned and has good taste in photographers.

ackerman1

Michael Ackerman image

* Yet another exploration of contemporary alienation through large C-prints comes courtesy of Carlos and Jason Sanchez, two brothers based in Canada who claim to be heavily indebted to the influence of Jeff Wall (and presumably Philip Lorca di Corcia, Gregory Crewdson, and others exploring similar themes). Their large (48x60 inches is typical) wall-sized prints typically take months to plan and execute, and employ a variety of special effects and props. I've seen a beautiful reproduction of one of their images in an art magazine, and a few of their images are strikingly lit and composed.

But there are thoughtful ways of addressing their well-worn themes, and then there are less subtle, more melodramatic ways of doing the same thing, and unfortunately the air of mystery and "innocence lost" that the Sanchez brothers attempt to cultivate comes across often as faux-surrealist and highly overblown soap opera, much in the way that the worst work of Wall and (especially) Crewdson does. I don't personally find that bigger budgets, bigger sized images, or Hollywood actors (which Crewdson uses) provide greater illumination and insight into the ways of the contemporary world, nor do they make for a particularly interesting alternative world. In this respect, di Corcia is much more effective because 1) his equally obsessive methods (but more modest approach) demonstrate an understanding of how to use scale and light, 2) his concepts and sense of storytelling are more open-ended, and 3) he actually allows his subjects and models to breathe within the frame, rather than use them as stillborn props for some Big Surrealistic Scene.

For an alternative viewpoint, here's a recent interview with the Sanchez brothers. In the interview, filmmakers like David Lynch and P.T. Anderson are predictably invoked as inspiration, but unfortunately young photographers like the Sanchez brothers don't understand that Lynch and Anderson use the tools of cinema to give their images life and resonance with the viewer in a way that isn't readily achievable with straight photography, at least not without a bit more imagination beyond simply creating bigger, weirder movie stills. Descent is probably my favorite image in the Sanchez's portfolio, but it's difficult for me to warm up to the series.

* Finally, Spessi is an Iceland based photographer with a varied portfolio of commercial and personal work who's currently exhibiting in Brooklyn as well...I like his "Bensin" series on the gas stations that serve as a connection to the outside world for many remote Icelanders. The color and lighting and compositions are frequently basic, but the spartan presentation (and the presence of a few interesting details and splashes of color) highlights the totemic qualities of these service stations in the Iceland landscape.

spessi1

Spessi image, from Bensin series

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Comments

It appears that the Spessi exhibit in Brooklyn that you referred to is an archived show. Disappointing, as I found his "Campsite" series interesting enough to make the trek from Queens...

Posted by: Todd W. at Jun 11, 2004 2:51:41 PM

Hi there just wondering whether you'd have any more information on Michael Ackerman, including his equipment, tecniques and subject matter. Would be greatly appreaciated as am currently doing a study on him at the moment.
Yours sincerely
Holly

Posted by: Holly at Jul 15, 2004 1:21:46 AM