Friday, May 22, 2009

Hannah Starkey @Bonakdar

JTF (just the facts): A total of 21 c-prints, framed in white with no mat, displayed on the second floor, in the entry and two gallery rooms. The prints range in size from 19x25 to 48x64, and were taken between 2006 and 2009. All of the prints are made in editions of 5+1AP. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Irish photographer Hannah Starkey's two new bodies of work now on view at Tanya Bonakdar continue her exploration of women and their complex lives/roles in contemporary society.

The large scale cinematic works in the back gallery are all images of women behind glass, with blinds, curtains, and reflective shop windows all providing a barrier between the viewer and the viewed. The staged images are voyeuristic indirect portraits, where the subjects face in sidelong directions, looking away. While these scenes might be slices of everyday life, the overall mood is a mixture of boredom, cool isolation, longing and detachment.

The smaller works in the other gallery (entitled Street Pictures)have much more warmth and life. Using a more snapshot aesthetic, Starkey has photographed women on the street, the common theme being their fabulous sunglasses. Whether worn in the usual manner, or used as a hair accessory, the sunglasses seem to give the women of all ages a heightened sense of confidence, self-reliance and style. While I'm not sure these images will stand up particularly well as individual works, as a group, they're certainly more lively and energetic than the first set of pictures.

The conceptual punch line here is quite obvious: one barrier (the window) creates self-conscious vulnerability, while the other barrier (the sunglasses) creates self-assurance.

Collector's POV: The images in the show are priced at £8000 and £20000, based on size. Starkey's work has only recently appeared in the secondary markets. Prices at auction have ranged between $2000 and $4000 for smaller sized images, and between $4000 and $7000 for larger prints. These works don't fit into our collection, but if careful 21st century scene setting/portraiture is your thing, then these will be worth a look.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Photographs, 1997-2007, published by Steidl (here)
  • Sodium Dreams, at Bard, 2003 (here)
Through June 20th

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
521 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10011

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