Nick Cassway’s show of portraits of friends at JOG gallery has the immediacy of the snapshots that people post on the internet–unselfconscious, overindulgent, light-hearted and intimate. These are images that our ancestors eschewed–not that they didn’t do these things, but they didn’t parade their behavior in public or preserve the carefree moments for posterity.
The portraits, made of vinyl applied to Plexiglas, mylar, or just the wall, veer from surveillance, in which people are snapped unawares, to let’s-mug-for-the-camera. They are showing at J.O.G. Gallery until Jan. 13.
The strongest ones are the ones showing people in action–eating, playing with their cameras, or mugging. I loved them for their raw immediacy and the fierceness of the subjects digging into the joys of their lives.
The ones I liked least were on mylar–very Pistoletto, without Pistoletto’s life-size scale that puts the viewer right into the picture. These images, with their white drawings against the mirrored surface, are difficult to read, with the portraits and the reflections at war.
Some murals of clear vinyl on a white wall have a delicacy and peaceful intimacy, like shadows on the wall; they remind me of Mary Temple’s shadows-without-a-source murals. I could picture them in a house–a low-key mural with personal content, the subjects of people sleeping like guardian angels. They seem the antithesis of the party pictures. Instead of mugging, the posers are unwitting, and the camera, instead of serving for Internet-level exhibitionism, is serving to preserve something for personal use. There’s something off, however, in the material presence–maybe it’s the shininess of the clear vinyl or how it comes across as almost a color. I still liked them.
Cassway began making vinyl portraits a few years ago when he came upon a vinyl cutting machine used to create window signs. He has stuck with material, but has since moved onto computer, using laser-cutting technology. The commercial material, combined with the phenomenon of an explosion of revealing internet snapshots, gives the work a Pop sensibility. But ultimately it’s the way Cassway engages with a feeling a fellowship and friendship and love that makes this show pretty great.
Two caveats about J.O.G. Call them before you go. I’ve been disappointed there in the past. And bring your CPR resuscitation paddles in case you need a jolt halfway up the endless flights of stairs.
These pieces are editions of three, although when I suggested to Nick that they were prints, he looked kind of startled.