Comments/Context: Critiques and satires of our pervasive consumer culture, with its brand obsessions, its throw-away mind set, and its more recent economic dark side have become increasingly common subject matter for contemporary photographers. Rachel Perry Welty's new work fits snugly into this ever-expanding genre, using a playful, light touch to expose the sheer expanse of our growing mountains of disposable stuff.
Welty's images are meticulously constructed in her studio, where reams of cereal boxes, plastic bread tags, self-adhesive price stickers, and brightly colored twist ties have been transformed into clever sculptural environments where the artist hides in plain view. In one picture, she stands in a dress holding a shopping bag, disappearing as if camouflaged by a patterned ocean of yellow, white, and orange stickers. In another, her clothes are striped in a horizontal rainbow of lines, echoing the all-over thicket of twist ties (many marked "organically grown") pulled taut nearby. In a third, the round blue bubbles on her dress connect to others on the wall behind her and to an encroaching tower of Styrofoam take-out boxes that covers the floor. I was particularly impressed by her cylindrical basket of tiny bread ties, where hundreds of green, red, white, and orange plastic tabs have been woven into an elaborate, textured volume. In each and every image, her face is hidden; they are self-portraits or performances, where the detritus of her life obscures and overwhelms her self.
These works reminded me of JeongMee Yoon's pink and blue project, as well as of some of Vik Muniz' elaborate constructions of unexpected materials. They have a friendly, decorative feel, her message delivered without sober pronouncements or harsh hectoring; they're the kind of images that can successfully poke fun at the insanity of our consumer culture, without leaving the viewer depressed and disgusted.
Collector's POV: Very few of the prints on display in this show were still available for purchase, so these works seem to be selling well. The ones that were left were priced as follows: the 56x35 prints were either $6000 or $7500, apparently depending on their place in the edition (the last two in the edition respectively I believe); the larger 90x60 print was POR, and when I requested the price, I was eventually told it was no longer available, so I'm not clear on what the price actually was. Welty's work has little or no secondary market history, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
- Artist site (here)
- Northeastern faculty page (here)
- Interview: Art 21 (here)
- Review: New York Photo Review (here)
Through December 23rd
Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011