Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Doug DuBois: All the Days and Nights @Higher Pictures

JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 color images, framed in white and matted, and hung in the very small gallery space and viewing alcove. All of the works are digital c-prints; most are 20x24 in size and printed in editions of 10; there is a single image in a larger size (approximately 38x45) in an edition of 5. The images were made between 1984 and 2008. A monograph of this work was recently published by Aperture (here). (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: As we never seem to be afraid to go out on a limb, out we go once again: I think Doug DuBois clearly belongs on a top ten list of the most underrated contemporary photographers. While DuBois is well known by many working photographers and photography insiders, I'm sorry to say that I think he is likely a mystery to most collectors. I'd like to think that this intimate show might expose a few more people (at least in New York) to the emotional power of his work.
DuBois' images document the minefield of tense, pregnant moments in the history of his family. Like the work of Larry Sultan, Mitch Epstein and even Tina Barney, DuBois captures the subtle gestures, stolen moments, sideways glaces, and awkward spaces that make up the relationships between family members, but his pictures seem even more full of weary intensity and agonizing pathos ("pathetic" in the true meaning of that word). Seeing these images gathered together from across the decades is like watching a slow motion car crash; the bonds of family are worn, and tested, and finally break, leaving behind an exhausted emptiness and isolation.

What most impressed me in this show was the consistency of the work. In most shows that travel these kinds of interior paths, there are a handful of images that get it "right", while the rest miss the mark by a click or two, producing generally forgettable pictures. Not so here - virtually every picture in this show packs an emotional punch; there aren't any throw aways or filler.
I can't say that if you spend the time to really look at these pictures that you won't come away a bit tired and depressed by the anguished dissolution of this family. I can say however that the craft on display is top notch, and the intensity found in the images will grab your attention and make you think a bit deeper about the fragility of the bonds that tie your own family together.
Collector's POV: The images in the this show are priced at either $2000 or $3800, based on size. DuBois' work has very little auction history; the two recent images in the Christie's Berman sale both bought in. As a result, gallery retail is likely the only real option for interested collectors at this point. While these works aren't a match for our collecting genres, I think the work would fit especially well with Mitch Epstein's Family Business series.
On a side note, the folks at Higher Pictures should be commended for their simple and efficient handouts for this show. When I walked in, I was handed a copy of the press release and two pages of thumbnails with all the images in the show and their relevant details/prices. This package was given to every single visitor while I was in the gallery. Straightforward, effective, and useful: well done.
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here).

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Interview with Alec Soth @Conscientious (here)
  • Book review by Amy Stein @Ahorn Magazine (here)
  • Best shot @Guardian (here)
Doug DuBois: All the Days and Nights
Through December 5th
Higher Pictures
764 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10065

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