Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Sam Samore, 1973 @Team
JTF (just the facts): A total of 24 black and white photographs, framed in black and matted, and hung in the main gallery space and the smaller back room. All of the works are gelatin silver prints, taken in 1973 and printed recently. The images come from two series (The Suicidist and The Murdered Brother), each of which is made up of a total of 17 images (not all are on display in this show). Each print is sized 14x22, and comes in an edition of 1+1AP. (Installation shots at right.)
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Comments/Context: Visiting Sam Samore's new show is like setting your time machine for 1973 and stepping out in the heydey of bushy facial hair and quirky photoconceptualism. The exhibit pairs an old favorite (The Suicidist) with a previously unknown body of work (The Murdered Brother), both from the same year. The two projects revel in dark, black comedy, taking death (and its stand ins) to new heights of absurdity.
The Suicidist is likely familiar to many readers here, as its catalog of death fantasies have become a classic of the era. The series features Samore himself posed in a variety of cinematic crime scenes, a scruffy protagonist in an endless stream of increasingly ridiculous events. The deaths begin with the commonplace: a fall down the stairs, a knife, an overdose of pills, run over by a car, a plummet to the street from an apartment window, but quickly turn to the weird and wonderful: vacuum in the mouth, arrow in the chest, strangled by the phone cord, impaled on a music stand, crumpled at the base of a child's slide, head in the toilet, buried in a sandbox. The images mix a goofy desperation with a calculated smartness, the taxonomy of corpses both clever and haltingly funny.
The Murdered Brother riffs on many of the same themes, albeit in a more abstracted and indirect way. The dead body in these images has been replaced by a curious white rubber glove, partially inflated and poking out from any number of puzzling and inopportune locations. It's stuck in the oven door, creeping out of the dryer pipe, wedged under the toilet seat, trapped in the piano, stuffed in a boot, and trying to escape from the vacuum. The stories in this series are much more obtuse and unknowable, more open for interpretation, but still playfully melodramatic and inventive.
I'll admit to being a sucker for the precocious wit of 1960s and 1970s photoconceptualism. I never seem to tire of the visual jokes and brainy games of Baldessari, Wegman, Cumming, Nauman, Ruscha et al., and these projects by Samore fit right into that same intellectual mind set. This show was a good reminder for me that deadpan need not mean boring or dull, and that there ought to be a larger place in contemporary photography for the crackling and the cunning.
Collector's POV: Each of the prints in this show is priced at $20000. Samore's photographs have become more available in the secondary markets in recent years, with prices ranging between roughly $4000 and $16000.
Through October 27th
83 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013