Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Touhami Ennadre, Under New York @Priska Juschka

JTF (just the facts): A total of 14 black and white images, framed in black, and hung in a dimly lit side gallery with black walls. All of the works are gelatin silver prints on baryta paper mounted on canvas, sized 60x48 or reverse. Each image is unique; there are no editions. The show consists of works from two different projects: Under New York and Bodies of Night; both are dated 2001-2007. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Entering Touhami Ennadre's current show is like walking into the mouth of a cave; the dark space is indistinct and amorphous, until you stand for a moment and let your eyes adjust, and then the objects on the walls come into somewhat clearer view. Even then, each piece requires an intimate viewing, as it's often impossible to identify the shadowy subjects without a close, face near the frame inspection.
There are two separate sets of work intermingled in this exhibit, both playing off the enshrouding effects of darkness. In Bodies of Night, Ennadre has captured the nocturnal activities of people in clubs: dancing, embracing, and even tied up in ropes. In these pictures, the inky darkness is a form a freedom, an enabler to get sweaty and close, to be who they really are, to let loose or to act out their fantasies, protected by the anonymity of the night. In Under New York, the blackness of the pictures plays a different role: here it envelops homeless people, huddled on the subway or on the streets, isolating their struggles and hiding them from view; the darkness has an erasing effect, turning these people into rumpled bundles of rags.
Of the two, I think the Under New York series is slightly more successful. In these works, since there are no faces, the subjects have been transformed into sculptural layers of texture: hoods, coats, blankets, and newspaper intermingle, the flash creating shine and glare on slick surfaces. The viewer is forced to work hard to discover what these pictures are, to see that they are indeed human; they therefore force us to confront the reality of homelessness much more directly than an embarrassed diverted glance on the subway platform normally allows.

One surprisingly thing about all of the works in this show is, given their subject matter, they are remarkably non-voyeuristic. Ennadre has found a way to document extremely personal and vulnerable moments with a purity of purpose that has stripped away a layer of implied shame. Overall, this show has a heavy dose of both literal and figurative darkness, but also finds a way to see some light in the depths of black.
Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced at $35000 each. Ennadre has no auction history to speak of, so interested collectors will need to follow up at retail. While these works don't fit into our collecting genres, I particularly enjoyed 53 St-5th Ave, with its cacophony of fabrics and surfaces.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
Touhami Ennadre, Under New York
Through January 2nd

Priska Juschka Fine Art
547 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: This will be the last post prior to the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. We will be back to normal posting next Monday, November 30.


J. Wesley Brown said...

I think you mean $3,500, not $35,000, right?

dlkcollection said...

It's not a typo; according to the printed price list, the images are $35000 each.