Currently on view at Andrew Kreps’s new 22 Cortlandt Alley exhibition space in the thriving TriBeCa arts district, photographer Roe Ethridge has opened a show of new works continuing his unique approach to the construction of the portrait, winding together strange environmental elements, a broad range of characters, and cultural milieu that act to disrupt and reshape the understanding of any one framing.
His ninth show with the gallery, Etheridge’s work continues its studied approach to the depiction of bodies and spaces, posing a range of figures and actions lent a certain sense of surrealism by their meticulous fusions. In Ethridge’s photograph Oslo Grace at Willets Point, the subject gives a knowing smile, their gaze falling just left of the camera. Sitting on a reflective pink mat, with a cluster of fruits, they appear to be almost copied and pasted into the muddy, tow lot that they turn their back towards. This gesture is seemingly reciprocated by both Citi Field Stadium towering above, with its billboards and LED screens enacting a similar disconnect to their surroundings, and the image itself, which despite its cues, refuses to fit squarely as a meditation on gentrification nor as an uncanny celebration of artifice. In another image, Susan Lucci and Derek Chadwick the artist draws on campy iconographies and a rich color palette to push images in another direction, allowing figures, their respective cultural backgrounds, and their shared space to set up conflicts and resistance to easy legibility.
This tension is at the core of Ethridge’s practice, and the exhibition, as he assumes the medium’s traditional role as society’s mirror, while simultaneously upending this through an ongoing questioning of the relationship between contemporary images and truth. Through this framework, Ethridge focuses on the concept of sanctuary and its myriad definitions, the word’s political and personal dimensions – including the supposed insular refuge of artistic practice. Moving from private to public life, and between vernaculars of commercial studio photography, composed still life, and candid cell phone images, his initially divergent subjects work in tandem to create a visual understanding or tenor throughout the exhibition, reflecting our own impulse to build meaning through the aggregation of images.
The show closes November 2nd.
— D. Creahan
Roe Ethridge: “Sanctuary 2″ [Andrew Kreps]