Although Portland does not fall victim to the kind of late summer heat that drives people away from many other cities this time of year, August has been marked by a typical late summer lull, as artists and gallerists gear up before this fall's hyperactive roster of exhibitions and events.
That said, there are several shows you may want to catch this weekend before the summer runs out (see Jeff's picks in yesterday's post). One show I recommend is Ann Ploeger's theatrical photographic portraits of the artist's friends in domestic spaces at Newspace. Her portraits are marked by intentionally overworked compositions, highly saturated color, deadpan humor, strategic use of props and harsh lighting. In a review that ran earlier this month, DK Row chided Ploeger for her high theatrics, but these qualities, along with the fact that the photos invite voyeuristic intrigue, are what make these large scale portraits so likable. It's kind of a survey of how the other, hipper half lives.
Row aptly positioned Ploeger as an artist exploring a contemporary equivalent of 19th century painted portraiture. Ploeger chose subjects that tend to embrace a thoroughly retro sensibility (probably just a sign of Portland's obsession with the second-hand aesthetic). The straight faces of her subjects and overtly staged compositions employed by Ploeger give the portraits a somewhat anachronistic feel, harking back to early photographic portraiture at a time where technology didn't allow for a great degree of dynamism. In addition, Ploeger exploits light in interesting ways that give her compositions a painterly theatricality. Most of Ploeger's indoor photographs use harsh lighting that creates dark shadows and well-placed glare, strategically using natural light in combination with prominent placement of domestic lamps. In many outdoor photos, she intentionally positions her subjects in a way that create intense black shadows that contrast with overly saturated areas of sunlight.
In her artist statement, Ploeger explains that her "body of work attempts to capture the subject's true self," an unsettling statement that rings false in light of her work. Ploeger's portraits are emotionally cool in a way that has much more to do with Wolfagang Tillmans' fashionable photos of close acquaintances that Nan Goldin's revealing portraits of her friends. Looking at Ploeger's work, I find nothing revealing about the subject's "true self." The most revealing thing about these portraits is the way that they emphasize the self-conscious posturing of the subjects in everything from the way they position themselves in front of the camera to the conscientious lifestyle choices evidenced in their domestic realms. Perhaps Ploeger's quest to find a sense of truth or authenticity in her photographs explains some of the inconsistencies in the show, for her best work is where artifice unabashedly reigns.
Through August 28 • Newspace Center for Photography
1632 SE 10th Ave • Tel. 503.963.1935
Thanks for signing in,
. Now you can comment. (sign
(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by
the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear
on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)