Friday, April 3, 2009

Small is the New Big

Last week at the Philip-Lorca diCorcia show "Thousand" at Zwirner. I was treated to the most aggressive use of small photos I had ever experienced, and I loved it.

The gallery was lined with an eye level strip of small color Polaroid test prints. I was glued to the wall, with my eyelashes practically brushing the print surfaces as I craned to absorb all the juicy details and narrative fragments. I was excited to see so many rougher versions of images that I had seen in the finished, more polished mode in other diCorcia exhibits. They were so much more fun than the big, cold, glossy prints- these dirty little bits with fingerprints, nudity, the confusion and jumble of life along with quite a few intimate images that felt like Nan Goldin's best work, the Ballad of Sexual Dependency. There were also photographs that created an explanatory context for images that I had seen before and felt somewhat irritated or overtly manipulated by.

When I looked up from my intense scrutiny of the photos for a moment, I found that I was in another room, no longer in the big room that I had entered in, and I had no idea how I'd arrived. It was disorienting, and I think this was the desired effect. At that point I was eye weary but committed to looking at every one of the thousand images. As you continue on in the smaller space that the exhibit unwinds into, you find yourself turning along a tightening spiral of walls. We were nauseated by the motion of walking along the wall and looking so closely at the images.
Because of the layout of the show and the repeating theme of images that clearly reference time, including close-ups of watch faces, I think this show is meant to channel you through the human experience of time. In the beginning all seems possible, open. Then slowly space closes in on you, and eventually time runs out.

Photos courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

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