Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Todd Hido: A Road Divided @Silverstein

JTF (just the facts): A total of 15 color images, mostly framed in black with no mat, and hung in the back two gallery spaces. The chromogenic prints come in three sizes (or reverse): 20x24 (in editions of 10+3AP), 30x38 (in editions of 5+1AP) and 38x48 (in editions of 3+1AP). The images were taken between 2005 and 2009. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: The weather forecast for Todd Hido's group of new landscapes is remarkably consistent: cloudy, with a better than average chance for dreary, depressing rain. Hido's images document melancholy open roads, stark silhouetted trees, misty skies and barren fields, all seen through the blurry wetness of his car window.
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The "open road" is of course an American tradition, embodying freedom, youth, and unlimited opportunity. As a result, it has been "done" plenty of times before; I can think of the famous Dorothea Lange image (here) and couple more by Robert Adams (couldn't find good scans) that cover the concept from the art photography point of view (and I'm sure there are others I've forgotten, so add them in the comments as appropriate); stock photography for advertising and the like is chock full of optimistic, sunny open roads.
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Hido's muddy tracks are just the opposite: lonely, bleak and austere, in an introspective mood, even if the sun is trying to poke through. The works are unabashedly painterly (some might even lump them in the Neo-Pictorialist camp), using the rain to create out of focus softness with the foggy pastel colored light (think Stieglitz' Spring Showers). The best of the images in this show rise out of the bleary murkiness and find some emotional resonance, a subtle moment of unexpected beauty in an otherwise uninspiring landscape. Unfortunately, not enough of the works find this perfect pitch, and many sink back down into the empty psychological wasteland. All in, the exhibit is a bit of a mixed bag: a few moments of sublime quiet, intermingled with a few too many duller memories of standing in the cold rain.
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Collector's POV: Given that the images in the show come in three sizes, there are of course three sets of prices: $3500 for the smallest works, $5500 for the mid sized, and $9000 or $9500 for the largest works. Hido's work has started to trickle into the secondary markets, with the few lots that have come up for sale in the past few years fetching between $2000 and $6000. While these landscapes aren't a good fit for our particular collection, my favorite image in the show was 5157 (shown on the far left of the installation shot at right).
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Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)
  • Interview: Inceptive Notions (here)
  • Review: American Suburb X (here)
Through October 24th

535 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

7 comments:

dlkcollection said...

As an aside, in our summary of the various openings a few weeks ago, an anonymous reader left a challenge: talk about the prints that have a noticeable striping effect. Well, we found them. A handful of the prints in Hido's show have visible banding lines that cut across the large light colored areas of sky, a pixelated remnant from the printer I imagine. Several visitors in the gallery noticed these lines while I was there, so this was a problem that was identifiable by anyone who looks closely. I'd categorize this as a minor distraction, but one that would give me pause if I had my wallet out; that said, I'm sure the problems can easily be corrected for those who fall in love with one of the banded prints.

Anonymous said...

Thank you DLK for pointing out the print issues.

While Silverstein swears that these are analog prints, they have a strong digital feel. The banding is readily apparent, and usually a telltale sign of digital printing. There are also various smaller digital artifacts in the tonal gradations of the prints. Just look closely.

One could speculate that the banding is the result of lines in the windshields through which Mr. Hido was shooting. But we have yet to see any heavily banded windshields, so something is amiss.

'Tis a shame. Mr. Hido makes beautiful work which deserves nothing less than beautiful printing.

dlkcollection said...

The banding mystery appears on its way to being solved. Here's a thoughtful note I received this morning from Bruce Silverstein:

"I am responding to your recent review of Todd Hido's exhibition, more specifically to the discussion regarding the banding that can be seen on some of the images. After further discussions with the artist and the framer, we decided to take the images out of the frames to see if the banding could be seen on the prints without the plexi. Interestingly enough, all banding seen on the images appeared to disappear once the plexi was removed. We then took the plexi itself and leaned it against a clear wall to view it. In this case, no noticeable streaking could be seen on the plexi. Yet, surprisingly, the wall behind the plexi appeared to have streaks running horizontally. After this experiment, it became clear that that there were two plausible explanations for the streaking 1) that there was some residue on the plexi, perhaps left from the protective paper coating removed upon installation, or 2) within the plexi itself, there exists imperfections that can only be seen upon the subject when light passes through the plexi at a distinct angle. We are presently exploring each of these possibilities in order to try to rectify the problem. What is abundantly clear, is that Todd Hido's prints were produced to his exacting standards and certainly ours. It is unfortunate that this issue has become a distraction for some. Thank you for bringing this issue to light."

dlkcollection said...

I've also received some further clarification from Bruce Silverstein on Hido's process:

"On a separate note, we have confirmed with the artist that all images and prints in this exhibition are indeed analog, without digital manipulation, and were taken taken using film."

At this point, I doubt there are any other areas of potential confusion left for exploration.

Anonymous said...

Given the amount of art in Chelsea behind plexiglass, this explanation remains highly suspect. Where is the banding in all of the other photographic work sitting behind plexiglass?

Perhaps the only way of truly verifying this new information is to revisit the exhibition.

Deborah Hamon said...

I actually had a similar sounding problems with "banding" or "striping" appearing under anti-reflective museum glass (rather than plexi) when my work was shown in a gallery in Europe. Here's the email I sent the gallery at the time which may pose some light on the topic:

..."I believe I have an answer to the mystery "lines" on the two photo thanks to my husband who usually can figure out just about anything! He was fairly sure that it is a distortion based on the anti-reflective glass and the way the light is shining on it. So we experimented with shining a light in a certain way on a piece that I have here in my studio and we were able to replicate the texture under certain lighting conditions. The easiest thing to do to test this theory is to take the piece off the wall and look at it in a different light or room and see if the pattern disappears. If so, perhaps you can readjust the light source until the pattern is no longer visible. Or even switch to a different bulb as tungsten vs. incandescent vs. fluorescent may make a difference. Also my husband said that European light bulbs also "flash" at a different rate than US bulbs --something technical which I don't quite understand but may account for it being more visible over in Germany than here.

Anyway, this explanation would also account for the reason that the distortion was only occurring on the 2 pieces that were hanging on the same side of the room. Can you please investigate and let me know what you discover? Thanks..."

This indeed was the problem.

I am not sure whether the plexi on the Todd Hido show was anti-reflective, but I certainly would not be "highly suspect" about the explanation as it happened to me personally, and was incredibly baffling and frustrating to me at the time as I am someone who has a high level of attention to detail.

Anonymous said...

The gallery needs to either replace the plexiglass or display the prints without any glass at all. I saw the lines, and they ruined the experience.