Friday viewing go-round

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Ryan McGinley and David Hilliard at University of the Arts

Two hot young photographers have work in Sol Mednick Gallery and Gallery 1401, two venues a floor apart in the UArts Terra building on south Broad St. (Uarts’ website is useless for gallery information. These galleries are open 10 am-4:30 pm Mon-Sat, 211 S. Broad St. See map.)

New Yorker Ryan McGinley, who had a solo show at the Whitney last year, is a my gang photographer — shots of his friends doing… whatever (bike-riding, cavorting at night in the ocean, standing on a rooftop at dusk or dawn looking wasted). The camera is never off and McGinley catches his crew on the fly. The work is active, intense and almost agitated. (image above is “Tim and Dakota” image below is “Sam at Ground Zero”)

McGinley’s work is also sexy. Not only is there skin, skin and more skin, but there’s an untamed quality to both the people he’s looking at and they way he presents them.

These are children in a world with no grown-ups. And the photographer is completely merged with what he’s shooting. He’s so inside the milieu there is no feel of separation between the artist and his subjects. These are very excellent snapshots. (image is “Dan Dusted” and “Self Portrait Root Canal”)

That used to be a cut. But nowadays, it’s a compliment.

Hilliard’s work, which is interwoven with McGinley’s in both galleries by the way, is also documentary but in a more studied, I’m outside the picture kind of way.

The artist, who lives in Boston and teaches at Yale, makes triptychs that let the image unfold in a slow, cinematic pan (you read them left to right) that lets you catch the scene, then hone in on the details — which are plentiful and telling. In “Home Made” two women/girls sit, legs splayed, panties showing, doing a summer time chore. They’re taking the stones out of a batch of cherries. (image)

It’s a messy job and they don’t look particularly happy doing it. Red cherry juice stains their hands and runs down their bare legs. The subtext with womens’ issues here struck me as funny. But maybe not. The point of view is cool and anthropological. And the vibe is Hitchcockian. The birds could be swarming right off camera. (See more Hilliard at artnet)

Both artists works are large and both look great, mounted on aluminum and unframed. Large scale photography shown this way is compelling the way a large painting can be. It doesn’t give you surface and that will always make it a kind of lesser cousin. You’ll never want to lick the surface of a photograph. But you may actually want to devote a large wall in your house to one.

Thom Lessner redux and Jennifer Blazina at SPECTOR

Libby told you about Thom Lessner’s new work at SPECTOR. Let me echo her enthusiasm and say the guy’s work has never looked so confident and accomplished. The colors! The ability to capture a cheekbone with just one small curving line! The hair details! His full-blown love of his subjects! It’s great to see this talent blossom. Buy before the price goes up. Here’s another image, “Isaac.”

Meanwhile, in the gallery’s back space there’s work of a completely different stripe and color. Jennifer Blazina, an installation artist whose process-heavy output involves printing and casting — miniature photographs in handmade frames — has turned the back room into a kind of chapel. (image left and detail right below)

What looks like hundreds of miniature objects hung in grid-like fashion from ceiling to floor, give the space a pock-marked affect, but also a religious ambiance. Something in my Catholic upbringing cried out to me here of scapulars or perhaps holy cards tacked to the walls. Votive candles would have completed the picture and for that reason I’m glad there aren’t any.

The artist, who lives and teaches in Philadelphia, is mining her family’s photo archives for source material. I’ll be curious to see where she goes with this project because while the techniques are a wow, the installation feels like a closed book. Any sequel needs to take it elsewhere.

Inez Storer at National Museum of American Jewish History

Inez Storer’s a magical realist painter. The Bay area artist (represented locally by Snyderman Gallery where she’s had solo shows– the last in 2002) makes collage paintings, books and assemblages that are beautiful, edgy and outsider-y. (The work is installed beautifully in NMAJH, which is a great place if you’ve never been, by the way.)

The work is about identity and displacement and the artist, now 71, has reason to pick those as her subject.

(image is “Las Madres”)

She was raised in a household where there was a big secret and she knew there was a secret but was forbidden to talk about it.

Basically, Storer’s mother, a Jewish emigre who fled Nazi Germany, was so traumatized by the pain of the war and dislocation that she denied her Jewish roots. She (and her husband) raised Storer as a Catholic; and she (mom) only confirmed her Jewish roots on her death bed. Even then, she couched it in a lie, denying that there were any remaining family members. Storer later discovered she had 29 Jewish cousins, some living in California!

The work, which is beautifully crafted and richly colored, is not sweet. Words appear in child-like block letters and often they convey ironic meaning. In “Home Quilt,” (image) the word “mom” accompanies a face that has been grafitti-ed with a mustache and pointy (devilish?) beard.

This is no passing reference to Duchamp’s playful LHOOQ. It’s an angry defacing.

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