Comments/Context: This show gathers together a variety of fresh work from the Dutch photographer Ruud van Empel, and finds him both continuing down old paths and evolving new but related ones to explore. Process-wise, we are still in the realm of elaborate composite images, where thousands of visual fragments have been Photoshopped together into van Empel's signature otherworldly hyper-reality, full of unnerving children portrayed in a combination of perfect detail and odd flatness.
As a result, this show has the feeling of something altogether familiar, of van Empel subtly tuning and editing, but not changing the overall formula much; if you liked his prior work, you'll probably like these images as well, and if you didn't, you'll probably feel like these are more of the same. These recent pictures are not radical, frame-breaking experiments, but more a consolidation of the artist's complex visual toolkit, or perhaps better, a lively sprinkling of nuanced iterations.
My favorite image in the show was Brothers and Sisters 3, 2010; it's the picture on the left in the bottom installation shot. I like the idea of moving away from the consciously exotic; here van Empel has traded the lush, succulent jungle of the World series for the Northern forest in spring, placing two pale skinned, red haired children in 3/4 pose among the leaves. Even with the dated turtleneck sweater, it has an almost Victorian quality to it that I found intriguing.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
- Artist site (here)
Through May 14th
Stefan Stux Gallery
530 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001