Foreclosed at The Print Center and across America

Tommy Reynolds, Needing Something for Which There is Nothing, 2008, inkjet print, unique
Tommy Reynolds, Needing Something for Which There is Nothing, 2008, inkjet print, unique

The Print Center exhibit Foreclosed, which features work by photographers local and unlocal who construct installations and then photograph them, is the first curatorial outing there of sharp-eyed and alert curator John Caperton. I love that Caperton is doing what more and more curators starting to do here, placing local work in a national and international context.

Philadelphia photographers Gillian Pears, Tommy Reynolds and Ryan Widger are clearly rowing in the same stream of artmaking as the three others in the show–Chicago-based Melanie Schiff, who we saw at the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Mexico City-based Alejandra Laviada, and L.A. artist Hirsch Perlman.

All of these photos have barely any sense of reaching out to the wide wonderful world that’s out there. (After watching Sarah Palin–and the tv commentators–in action last night, I just might have to follow suit and bury my head in the sand or the studio, because what’s out there just ain’t pretty).

And while I’m on about what ain’t pretty out there in politics, how fortutous for Caperton to pick a title related to the mortgage crisis. Foreclosed is the perfect title for this moment in time, when American capitalism is taking a bath in public and we are seeing the dirty water sluicing down the drain. But the scope of the failure is much broader, as evidenced by these art works–one more proof that not everything is about money).

Tommy Reynold‘s shot of studio materials tossed all over the place brings to mind Jeff Wall for its sense of scale, the use of a set-up, and the intense shots of color. But the content is frustration–a search with no victory, a work space without order. It’s a snapshot of the artist’s mind going nowhere amid chaos.

melanie schiff
Melanie Schiff, Cases, 2005, c-ptint, edition of 3, from The collection

The images in Hirsch Perlman‘s smaller scale (2.5 feet high) Operation Idiocracy series captures light in plastic bags in a way that reminds me of 1950s special effects from horror movies, documentary footage of nuclear explosions, and medical imaging. Plastic is going to kill us all!

Most of this work is deadpan, airless, and a little bit abject and ashamed. All of the images are of stand-ins for humans in barren interior spaces. They all have a bit of the feel of a stage, maybe of Waiting for Godot, with just its trash can on an empty set. This does not speak well of our state of existence in the year 2008.

Alejandra Laviada‘s painfully precarious stack of chairs are the tottering human condition; Gillian Pears‘ sheets suggest bad sex and shame; and Ryan Widger‘s forlorn objects in bleached spaces call for Viagra. I can see a trace of humor in Laviada, but I’m not sure I see it in either Pears or Widger (although I suspect someone of the male persuasion may have an alternative view).

On the side of transcendence, however, is Melanie Schiff, who makes a deadpan shot of CD jewelboxes into a beautiful aureole of light, a welcome suggestion that there’s beauty and spirit in the details–and in the human being.

Also showing at The Print Center is work by Masao Yamamoto, a complete contrast in intent and means to Foreclosed. Bring along your reading glasses. Many of these works are quite small.