Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. It's not the point, but the dude at Sonnabend has to be the grumpiest gallery face ever. It has to be a tough gig: the standing or sitting at a desk looking very busy as people wander in and out of the gallery. I get that. Most of the elegant figures take on a sculptural quality as they desperately (but aloofly) try to keep their eyes fixed on the screen of their over-sized iMacs. There are some who avoid this gallery so as to not have to face the scowl. The trick is, don't speak. Don't make eye contact. Works for me. At least it did until this last time when I blurted out, oh, these look like Elger Esser. Eye contact. Eye rolling. Does it say Elger Esser? Much shaking of head. Anywhere?

So no. Duly shamed I'll admit, it's not Esser. But not unlike his work either. There are more than a dozen large black and white images of hurricanes photographed off a beach on Long Island by Clifford Ross, a photographer new to me, hanging in Sonnabend. The scale is perhaps not as large as Esser (now all will have to be compared...), but the water, the detail of the water reminded me of the last show I saw of his on those very walls. These images are more turbulent, offering vivid illustrations of what weather is capable of doing to a body of water. In some shots there appears to be a sheer wall of water, like a cliff, with frill of foam. They are disturbing, but nonetheless soothing to see such power frozen. I wouldn't say they have the force of someone like Andreas Gursky, or Esser for that matter, but I enjoyed them. From the show catalog:
I re-entered the sea with my painter’s eye and a digital photographic system as my brush. The subject is the same, but my new approach has enabled me to capture more dramatic moments, and sweeping views, while revealing more intimate details – a curious dichotomy. The challenge was to shatter the tendency of digital photography to present itself as a remote, “clean” truth. I want my images to make a clear and powerful statement but end their dialogue with the viewer with a question – one which leaves the viewer with a sense of wonder – and a need to look at nature further on their own to find the answer.
Up until December 19.

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