Kevin Landers has a retrospective of his photo work since 1990 at Elizabeth Dee Gallery in Chelsea, in conjunction with a his solo show at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (to which my wife and I have lent one of his best pictures, Man with a Shopping Cart).
What is it about the random delights of Kevin Landers that I have always found so appealing? He is an archeologist of the living Lower East Side of Manhattan, a neighborhood that continues to defy, albeit less and less successfully, cookie-cutter gentrification. To Kevin, the bodega is a museum: The arrangements of foodstuffs passing through for sale amuse him profoundly. He sees poetry in a broom sweeping sludge or a crushed dirty coffee cup, reading "I Love New York." Reminiscent of Cartier-Bresson in the Paris of the ‘30s, Landers’ camera emits rays of love, while his hand gathers junk to be transformed into toys of art.
In the past, Kevin has manufactured boom boxes from cardboard and racks of potato chips from Styrofoam. His photography is in a continuum with this conceptual fabrication. I am particularly drawn to the fragile dignity of his old men, emerging from the street like so many crabs on the shoreline. His fruits and vegetables also look like rare jewels.
His erotic snaps, meant to titillate like the prostitutes in Brassai, seem less necessary to me, for Landers’ purpose is one of conservation and memory, a traveler in small places that are always ignored by the high and mighty. He is a tickler, not a masturbator.
I am always surprised when others love Landers’ pieces as much as I do, at a time when artists are taking the weight of the world on their shoulders and often turning it into heavy bricks of doom. The critic Bridget Goodbody strongly endorsed Kevin’s show at a panel we did the other night, a pleasant surprise.
For, in rummaging through what is familiar in old low Manhattan, Kevin Landers unveils the light of the world.
Kevin Landers, "Photographs 1990-2007," Apr. 6-May 7, 2007, at Elizabeth Dee Gallery, 545 W. 20th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).