Comments/Context: I have seen and written about the work of the Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens several times over the past few years, so I was certainly aware of what I would likely encounter when visiting his newest show (post Sandy flooding) at Danziger Gallery. But I have to say I was totally and utterly surprised when I walked into the gallery. His portraits have been transformed into glossy objects - rather than being shown in traditional nondescript black frames, they are printed large and face mounted to Diasec like the work of many of the Dusseldorf and Helsinki school graduates. For me, it was an electric wow moment, the push and pull of old and new in his photographs energized and amplified by the modern presentation.
The show is a mini-retrospective sampler of Kerstens' work, going all the way back to his early portraits of his daughter Paula and mixing in brand new images from the past year or two. It traces both her transformation (from young girl into young woman) and his ongoing refinement of craft and technique. For those unfamiliar with Kerstens' approach, suffice it to say that he has brewed up an original alchemical mix of painting and photography, borrowing traditional dark background poses, the careful handling of light, and the subtle treatment of skin from the masters of Dutch portraiture and blending them together with anachronistic modern props and accessories, creating graceful photographic portraits that look and feel like museum treasures and then abruptly upend your sense of order. At this point, the Marie Antoinette bubble wrap headdress, the plastic shopping bag cap, the cloth napkin wimple, and the paper towel roll turban have all become contemporary classics.
Through February 16th
527 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011