Friday, March 20, 2009

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Thousand @Zwirner

JTF (just the facts): 1000 Polaroid images, mostly color and mostly 3 1/2 x 4 1/2, each mounted to aluminum (not matted or framed) and displayed edge to edge on a small silver shelf hung at eye level around the perimeter of the gallery. The architecture of the gallery folds in on itself like a shell, creating a narrowing blocky maze. The images span approximately 25 years of the DiCorcia's career. There are also 4 large DiCorcia images, made recently, in a side gallery. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Since we are used to standing back to see Philip-Lorca DiCorcia's normally wall sized images, this installation of 1000 (yes, one thousand, a staggeringly large number) pictures as tiny prints was a mind bending change in our perceptions. The prints literally force you to get your face within a few inches to see them well, and to take in the entire show, you must slowly meander along the monorail attached to the wall to see each and every picture. The prints wind around and around and finally spit you back out at the entrance, having traveled far further than a simple four wall walk around.
Along the way, many of DiCorcia's best and most memorable images can be found, representatives from all of his famous bodies of work (staged street scenes, hustlers, strippers, heads etc.) mixed into a chaotic brew of test shots, exposure mistakes, random still lifes, and seemingly ordinary family snapshots. There are clocks and flowers and skulls, people at home and people on the street.

The first effect of this display is that is exhausting. There are simply so many good images that require such intimate attention that they all fall into a blur quite quickly, with the repetitions and allusions of the sequencing coming to the forefront, rather than any one outstanding shot. The second effect for me was to turn the whole enterprise on its head; the exhibit seemed to become more about the process of editing than it did about individual frames. Why were these specific images chosen out of all those taken? What was it about this particular snapshot that resonated for the artist? How and why did he make the choices that he did? What is the larger narrative at work here?
The final effect of this smorgasbord of imagery was to see a single overall emotional state that seems to pervade all of DiCorcia's work, which I wasn't particularly aware of until I saw all of the images together. Regardless of the subject matter, there is very little joy in the world he has captured. There is plenty of isolation, and shadowy loneliness, and deadpan boredom, regardless of whether it was staged or captured live. I must admit that this mood (when I recognized it) dampened my enjoyment of the many treasures to be found in the mixed bag along the aluminum rail.

As a generally unrelated adjunct, there is a small room containing four new DiCorcia pictures, printed in their normal large size, just off the main gallery space.

Collector's POV: The thousand images in this exhibit are not for sale individually, but are being sold as one installation (I didn't ask the price). DiCorcia's work is widely available at auction, typically selling in the range between $10000 and $50000, with an outlier here and there.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Through March 28th
525 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Roberta Smith's short review of this exhibit in the NYTimes is here. A review by Horses Think is here.

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