Exhibition Review: Vanity By Murray Fredericks

Exhibition Review: Vanity By Murray Fredericks

Mirror 12, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

Mirror 12, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

Exhibition Review: Vanity By Murray Fredericks

By Ilana Jael

 

In Act 3, Scene 2, of Hamlet, William Shakespeare suggests that great art must hold “a mirror up to nature”.  And over 400 years later, photographer Murray Fredericks has more or less taken this suggestion literally to sublime result in his photo series Vanity, on view from now until April 7th at the Robert Mann Gallery in Chelsea. The “nature” in question being reflected upon  is Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, the largest lake and lowest natural point in Frederick’s native Australia. This exhibition is the first chance the photographer has been granted to share his substantial gifts with the United States, and his appearance across the pond with such awe-striking images in tow is certainly a welcome one.

Mirror 19, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

Mirror 19, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

Eyre’s idyllic landscape is one with which the Fredericks has maintained an ongoing relationship, journeying there over 20 times. And though it is undoubtedly beautiful in its own right, he is too keen and ambitious an artist to settle for a simple capturing of it. Instead, he uses an object both metaphorically resonant and visually versatile as his principal tool to transform the space: a mirror. More precisely, two mirrors, positioned not to allow Frederick entrance into his art but to allow the landscape to reflect itself.

Mirror 16, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

Mirror 16, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

The effect on the scene evokes an expert pastel painting as much as a conventional photograph, something soul-stirring and utterly unique. Horizons of deep blue blend seamlessly into airier pinks and whites of clouds and sunsets to frame central squares of reflected sky. And in one last brilliant touch, his reflective photographic technique is itself reflective of the reflection Fredericks hopes to inspire in his viewers.

 

According to the artist, the work is intended not as an affirmation or resigned acceptance but as a refutation of the titular human affliction vanity. By using an object “emblematic of our obsession with ourselves, individually, and collectively” to draw our attention outwards into the environment, Fredericks seeks to drive his viewers towards “an emotional engagement with light, color and space” and to consider the profound and often devastating effect humans have on natural environments.

Mirror 18, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

Mirror 18, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

When so much of modern art is garish, vulgar, and seems to be aiming only to shock, the chance to experience images as peaceful and pleasant as those we glimpse in Murray Frederick’s “Vanity” is a welcome treat. Philosophically infused and socially conscious without being jarring or unpleasant, these pictures are exactly what the best art can be.

Mirror 8, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

Mirror 8, 2017 © Murray Fredericks

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