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by Max Henry
|There's something about Terry
They came out in droves for the opening, the kind of nubile young things that hipster photographer Terry Richardson loves to chronicle in fashion-lifestyle magazines like Richardson and Index. His first solo show at Alleged Gallery on Washington Street in West Chelsea is called "Smile" and rates an NC-17 for its raunchy content.
Richardson's persona is that of a geek voyeur drooling salaciously at the flesh. He takes ordinary snapshots that are nonetheless irresistible for their schlock frankness and absurdity.
Terry ingratiated himself for two weeks at a Florida nudist colony before shooting his subjects -- well-tanned 40- to 50-year-olds lounging in the buff. His "Nudist Series 2000" consists of nine 40 by 60 inch c-prints of just plain folks sipping cocktails at poolside, dancing, working the Stairmaster -- all in the nude. It's a day in the life of the nudist.
For his "Horror Series" (2000), Richardson took pictures of sculptures from the Hollywood Wax Museum -- Chuck Norris, Sly Stallone, John Wayne, Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. They don't seem to fit in here, but they do add still another note of kookiness.
Richardson is a real seducer. Covering two back walls of the gallery is a total of 111 pictures of naked young women, a wall-to-wall spread that gives the show its true raunchiness. Who are these girls who take off their clothes and show off their hard bodies? How does Richardson get 'em to do it? There's something about Terry, you can just hear him lurking behind the lens, coaxing, "yea that's it, a little wider, a little more to the left, to the right," and so on.
Richardson is a new-school pornographer, a lunatic for eye candy with the twisted madcap trash esthetic of John Waters. He's not so much concerned with the canon as with just pissing on it between guzzling tall boys and laughing all the way to the bank....
Black is the color of choice for the art-world uniform. It's also the subject of "Dusk," an ambitious group show at I-20, the first in the gallery's three-year history. It's curated by the itinerant writer David Hunt, co-author of Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht and the hardest working art critic on the New York scene (sorry Jerry).
The show features works by 20 artists that refer to the color black. The anti-romantic mood of near-noir darkness has its individual highs and lows, but succeeds as a thematic whole.
A rousing four-keg opening night lasted till 1 a.m. The place was buzzing after two rooftop performances by Sontext, the team of Debora Warner and Steve Hamilton, which featured a realistic surround-sound of a helicopter taking off, passing overhead and then landing. Effectively pulled off with top-of-the-line rock-concert audio equipment, the eight-minute-long piece was four minutes too long. Halving it would have served it better, like editing a film, heightening the impact of its cinematic drama ("Saigon, I'm still in Saigon").
The anchor piece of the show is Lucky DeBellevue's Untitled (1997), a row of floor to ceiling barbed wire plastic chain-links that gives the room its edge. It plays nicely off Jacqueline Humphries sublimely big modernist square painting, To Be Titled (2000) that has a wide band of pink across the top and viscous white drips running down and across its gritty surface. Kinky Kiki Seror contributes Married by Dusk, Killed at Dawn, One Thousand and One Nights (2000), a large round light-box seething with her pent-up sexuality lewdly expressed in text culled from internet chat rooms. "Taste My Flesh" is one of the tamer erotique come-ons and the hot talk is straight out of those phone sex ads in Penthouse magazine.
Work by New York-based Turkish artist Haluk Akakce is placed opposite that of a Greek named Yorgo Alexopoulos. Alexopoulos' The Sign (2000) is a Cibachrome of an atomlike insignia floating in the middle of a pitch-black field. Akakce's digital video loop, The Measure of All Things (2000), is a six-minute-long hallucinatory wonderland of virtual rooms and a 21st-century metropolis metamorphosed into a floating tower of spheres at dusk as viewed through the Venetian blinds of an office tower window.
Meredith Danluck's work, a kind of crash pad on the fly, is called Living on the Other Side of the Glass (2000) -- a black futon fenced in by styrofoam "brick" wall remnants, with a buck-ugly slab of a painting hanging on the wall. Headphones pipe in groovy music but the bricks are a blatant lift from recent works by Rachel Harrison. Harrison's Easy Rider (2000) is a clunky lumpy crayola-black sculpture looking like it hurtled through space and crash-landed in the show. It's animated and seems user friendly.
Craig Kalpakjian's Corridor II (1998) is a photo of a vacant hallway to nowhere with an ominous overhanging aluminum air duct. Kelly Lamb's DVD loop Infinity (2000) is a five-inch screen showing an underwater aquatic acrobat (is that the Submariner's wife?) swimming in circles ad infinitum. It's like watching a lone fish in a bowl.
Doing the math on this one takes a thorough walk through (and a half) with some obviously derivative works -- the Thomas Ruff impersonation in photos by Ricardo de Oliveira and Fia Backstrom) and Danluck's brick bummer. Peter Sarkisian's dryly-academic video projections, both from his "Roadside Series," seriously snooze here. One has a pair of old lady slippers on a dowdy suitcase and the other a well-worn pair of men's shoes on an equally worn suitcase, both neon blue spot-lit while the sound of a passing car is heard every few seconds. Gee!
Magician Hunt still manages to draw a black rabbit out of the hat, working and stretching what he has to overcome -- the tame weaknesses in some works by the brute strength of others. That's what good group shows ought to do, collectively entice the viewer. How many times have you liked a group show but hated some of the works? Countless times. This is a good group show. Go see "Dusk" before night falls....
MAX HENRY lives in New York.