Currently on view at Marc Straus is the works of Thomas Bangsted and that one photographer, umm what’s his name…oh, Jeff Wall.
With his reductive and in some ways sleepy imagery, Thomas’s photographs are often devoid of people but peppered with their customs, creations and failures. In this two person exhibition, he joins Jeff Wall in heavily process oriented landscapes and momentary extracts to pull together a show that surfaces bleak and oddly ominous images.
In “Last of the Dreadnoughts”, Thomas evokes the disorienting camouflage used by the Allied forces in WWII to puzzle and confuse the German navy. These moving geometrical lines mislead the bad guys as to the direction, speed and distance of their opponent. Here, this chic battleship floats either toward us or off between a gap in the waterline and into the abyss. Its purpose of misperception extends past the Nazi regime to muddle the understanding of the viewer ourselves.
Fun Fact #1: The abstract modernist Edward Wadsworth, among other artists, was enlisted to design these patterns.
Game over! In “Court”, Thomas merges night and day exposures to both document a guileless scene and to forge a sight that cannot be fully attained at any single point. This slanting tennis court is at owlseye-view, a snippet from a dream or shadowed memory where the sport’s square rolls hillside-bound as trees and surrounding terrain encircles.
Running water, where are you running from?
This stream lands clumsily nowhere, seeming to disperse into the tangled black forest of a curious dry land. The scene is muted; the roar gutted from a lion left to slumber.
Fun Fact #2: Do you know who also merged day with night exposure? The director Nicolas Ray in “Rebel Without a Cause”.
And next in line is Jeff Wall, dry in humor but always wet with secret narratives in his roughly four decades of picture making. He gifts us with a single piece in this exhibition, “Rear”.
This is the first of his works I’ve seen in person not in light box format, and with a magnified separate scene mounted directly on the image as a small cutout. But before we examine that, it’s important to ask ourselves what the hell is going on in this image. A woman in grungy 90’s dress stands slouched with top teeth hung, seeming to look within a hole in a door where presumably a knob once was. A window is busted out behind her, the above porch is cluttered and disheveled, and below unkempt grass rivals the wall beside her. Her posture doesn’t suggest she lives there but is instead an unwanted visitor waiting, watching or hoping for something or someone.
Characteristic of Jeff Wall, this piece is gigantic – literally massive to Thomas’s figuratively enormous content.
And here’s that peculiar cutout section:
My first thoughts? GLORY HOLE.
Jeff Wall and Thomas Bangsted is on view now through April 21 at Marc Straus.
Contributed by Dean Dempsey.