Friday, December 7, 2012

Gail Albert Halaban: Hopper Redux @Houk

JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 color photographs, generally framed in white and unmatted, and hung against light peach colored walls in the main gallery space and the smaller side room. 9 of the works are archival pigment prints mounted to plexi, made between 2010 and 2012. Physical dimensions range from roughly 33x42 to 34x45 and the prints are available in editions of 5. The other two works on display archival pigment prints on film, fitted into custom LED lightboxes, made in 2011 and 2012. Physical dimensions of these works are roughly 25x31 and the works come in editions of 10. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: In Gail Albert Halaban's previous series, Out My Window, her photographs of buildings in New York drew an implicit parallel with Edward Hopper's urban street scene paintings, sharing a sense of dark moodiness and making common use of isolated figures looking out windows. In her newest body of work, Halaban has made this artistic connection to Hopper more explicit, tracking down the houses in Gloucester, Massachusetts, that were the subjects of his early watercolors, and making recreations in her own style from the exact same vantage points.
Hopper's watercolor portraits of seaside houses, with their Victorian details, mansard roofs, and New England unpretentiousness, shimmer in bright sunlight, giving them an unexpected energy and vitality. The world has of course changed in the roughly ninety intervening years between these two projects, and the front yard trees are now larger, the telephone wires and satellite dishes are more intrusive, and the details of the houses (awnings, paint color, other architectural decorations) are more reflective of modern tastes. While Halaban has taken great pains to echo Hopper's compositions, she has entirely reconsidered the light, often capturing the houses at twilight, when the streetlights have just begun to come on, the sky is a soft purple, and the windows glow from the inside. Nearly every picture includes a person posed in a window, both visible from the street and obliquely looking outward, seen and seeing at the same time. These Hitchkockian characters add the potential for mysterious lonely narratives to the now vaguely spooky houses. Even a house draped in friendly icicle lights has a faintly sinister cast.
In updating these architectural portraits, Halaban has transformed their overall temperament. Their spirit is now more separate and guarded; the light in the windows isn't entirely welcoming and beds of flowers and overturned bikes can look a little imposing. The images have been infused with both crisp photographic detail and a modern sense of isolation, at once concealed and visible, reclusive and longing for connection.
Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The large prints are $12000 each and the smaller lightboxes are $8500. Halaban's photographs have very little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Features/Reviews: NY Times (here), Guardian (here)
Through December 22nd

Edwynn Houk Gallery
745 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10151

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