Friday, May 7, 2010

Richard Renaldi: Touching Strangers @Hermès

JTF (just the facts): A total of 22 color photographs, framed in white with no mat, and hung in the atrium gallery space at the top of the store. All of the works are chromogenic prints made between 2007 and 2010. The prints on display are each 24x20 or reverse, made in editions of 12+2. A larger size is also available, 40x33 or reverse, in editions of 3+2. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Richard Renaldi's recent portraits are built on a deceptively simple construct that turns out to be much deeper and more complex than you might initially expect. The idea is straightforward: bring two generally unlikely people (or groups of people) together and ask them to pose for a portrait. The wrinkle here is that Renaldi has required the sitters to touch each other: to embrace, hold hands, intertwine their arms, or otherwise get much closer than two strangers normally would.
While at first glance, some of these images have the look of large format family snapshots, the overall effect is often a wonderfully strange and awkward moment, where cultures clash, invisible boundaries are reluctantly crossed, and stereotypes are broken down. A closer look reveals unexpected connections between these people, where ethnicities, ages, genders, and personality types seem to melt away, and honest and authentic emotions seem to come through. The gestures run the gamut from stiff and wooden to tender and moving, exposing an entire spectrum of subtle social interaction.
I found myself drawn to those portraits that not only brought stark opposites together, but also maximized the available color and texture in the environment. Reginald and Nicole pose on a vibrant yellow concrete sculpture, Carlos and Alex stand in front of a lime green wall, and Lindsay and Mark square off in front of a pattern of cinder blocks. The image of Julie and Xavier was the most memorable picture for me; she in her wedding dress holding a champagne bottle, he in his yellow bandanna and oversized baseball shirt, oddly dissimilar, yet able for just a moment to come together and share their common humanity.
Collector's POV: While this isn't a selling show, prints from this series are available directly from the artist (linked below). The 24x20 prints start at $2500 and escalate to $5000 based on the place in the edition. The 40x33 prints start at $4500 and escalate to $6000. Renaldi's work has not yet surfaced in the secondary markets, so interested collectors will need to follow up at gallery retail or directly with the artist.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Interview on Conscientious (here)
  • Review: Wallpaper (here)
  • Foundation d'enterprise Hermès (here)
Through May 28th

The Gallery at Hermès
691 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10065

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