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Badach and Frischkorn’s men and boys

Justyna Badach
Vek, by Justina Badach

Two photographic portrait exhibits at the Philadelphia Art Alliance borrow from the old masters to very different effect.

Justyna Badach’s Bachelor Portraits exhibit is quite different from other work I have seen of hers. This time she is using straightforward C-prints with no digital whiz-bang alterations, and her subjects are human beings. The portraits are quite satisfying and material, presenting quite a different sensibility from her immaterial landscapes devoid of people.

By including in each large portrait details of that person’s home and interests, Badach is falling back on the portrait tradition that includes symbols of the subject’s status and interests. The choices of what to include and what space to use as a backdrop immediately raises numerous questions about these men and their lives.

I found Kirk the most mysterious of all, with a transitory, lonely life suggested by things like the large picture frame still holding the standard fill-in images from the manufacturer, or the single pinned-up black drape, or the subject sitting on a stool rather than a comfortable chair. Badach has chosen to show his eyes avoiding the camera.
Justyna Badach
Kirk, C-print, 44 x 54 inches

Also hiding from the camera is Vek, with a black eye averted and an empty shelf behind him. The filled shelves have a sad grouping of boyish game objects. Jim looks positively menacing with a knife, but his surroundings suggest an ordinary orderly life of post-its and calendar and computer. In a way, all of these men have some sort of boyish games and fantasies in their surroundings. Even Kirk sports a skull and crossbones pendant atop his youthful attire.

I found these portraits interesting and peculiar and a pleasure to explore.

Shauna Frischkorn
Michael (Playing The Italian Job), by Shauna Frischkorn

In the next room, Shauna Frischkorn’s Game Boys exhibit of ecstatic young video-game players rely solely on focused facial expression and the name of the game they are playing. While the images are pretty to look at, with illuminated faces that reference Rembrandtian lighting and ecstatic faces of saints, that’s it. The boys are decked in typical teen-age uniforms of allegiance to some image or another, but they are still young and unformed and just don’t give enough back.

These exhibits run until May 6.