Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lise Sarfati, On Hollywood @Milo

JTF (just the facts): A total of 19 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the East and West gallery spaces. All of the works are digital c-prints, made in 2009 or 2010. The prints in the East gallery are sized 22x30, in editions of 5+2AP; the prints in the West gallery are somewhat larger (32x44), also in editions of 5+2AP. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Lise Sarfati's images of Hollywood women are a far cry from anything that might be called glamorous. These aren't pictures of the already famous or the soon to be celebrities, they're spare photographs of the countless forgotten women who have set out to chase a dream and have found the path to stardom to be much harder and grittier than they ever imagined. Aspiration mixes with vulnerability, hope with despondency, frustration with weariness: these are some of the casualties in the heartless struggle for fame.
Sarfati has been making solitary images of men and women for years, often composed with indirect glances, empty settings, and an.adept eye for muted color. These new works certainly fall into this larger pattern, albeit with an even grimmer mood and a dirtier palette. The back gallery is filled with head shots taken from underneath, seen with city buildings and tired, rundown storefronts (drug stores, strip clubs) in the background. There is an echo of Callahan here, but with a more cinematic West coast mystery. The women alternate between quiet confidence and fragile despair, the sense of struggle apparent in everything from their body language to their blank expressions. A dreary cigarette is never far from view, taking the edge off on a random street corner or a washed out sidewalk.
The photographs in the front gallery step back a few paces, making the images into wider, more narrative scenes. A blond girl smokes a bored, languorous cigarette in a cheap poolside chaise, another lingers outside a convenience store next to a fluorescent-lit green wall, and a goth girl in black coolly poses outside a closed movie theater. Women stare into storefront windows, idle near chain link fences, and sit on seedy concrete stoops, always smoking, down on their luck and waiting for something that probably isn't going to arrive; a few might be credibly be mistaken for hookers, which makes the subtle desperation in the images even more discouraging.
Both sets of pictures have a quiet, downtrodden grace in the face of this unforgiving environment. In Sarfati's Hollywood, life on the fringes doesn't look too appealing, but there is a sense of moody perseverance in nearly every image, of making the best of it even if the self-delusions are wearing thin.
Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The 22x30 prints range from $6600 to $10600, while the 32x44 prints range from $9300 to $13200. Sarfati's work has only been sporadically available at auction in recent years, with secondary market prices ranging from roughly $3000 to $14000. This body of work was also on view at Rose Gallery in Santa Monica, CA (here) earlier this year.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Magnum Photos page (here)
  • Features: Time LightBox (here), Le Journal de la Photographie (here)
Through October 13th
245 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10001

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