Alvarez, Bradley, Elkins, Jigarjian, Miller, Paumier, Raman, Sira, Temkin, Ugarte-Bedwell "Present Memory" curated by Joaquin Trujillo at Christopher Henry Gallery Present memory opened last Thursday, the 5th of September at the Christopher Henry Galley in Soho. The show was on two levels, the first being devoted to photography, while the second, upper level housed 2 installations and a screen projection video. Those who came were greeted genially by the curator Joaquin Trujillo, who was resplendent in orange and black houndstooth head to tow; hugging each acquaintance and making the atmosphere convivial and friendly by his very presence.
When entering the space the first pieces that come into view are Malu Alvarez’s large scale, bright prints; as Trujillo put it “she is the honey that draws people in”. Alvarez’s work is personal, focusing on her relationship with her grandmother; the bright yellow blouse her grandmother wore is the subject of Rosa, and Three Bouquets shows three generations of floral bouquets used by her family for generations. Alvarez's pice Sari shows the bright strands of fabric used to weave saris, before they become the familiar garment, and the Self Portrait, is one of her hair against a bright blue background. All four of these works are bright, vibrant and, perhaps due to their size, dominate the first floor.
The works of Michi Jigarjian that sit on the left wall are equally striking, but in a way that has more to do with time than, personal growth or loss. Jigarjian took a picture of an old typewriter (is there any other kind) strapped lovingly into the back seat of a cab, off to be repaired: Selectric II, and then a picture of 3 roman busts Geneva on the Lake; the works each have their own merits, and hold their own as separate compositions. The lighting on Selectric II is brilliant, the subject is absurd yet touching on the way we feel about the recent past, and obsolete objects that still function; photographers who insist on their own darkroom, painters who mix there own paint, writers who still use typewriters. Geneva on the Lake shows three roman heads on plinths, with just a glimpse of a young girl who ran into shot just below; ancient and new. However, while Jigarjian insists they are not part of a series, placed one next to the other it's impossible not to view them that way; the ancient roman heads have no use, yet we cherish them because of their age, the typewriter has a use, but we don't cherish it, we simply throw it away and use a laptop. So, in showing that the typewriter is being treated with the same reverence by its owner as the roman busts have been treated shows the difference between the typewriter, not yet ancient enough to be revered, and the heads from eras ago; and then the girl, running though the frame shows the future, a future who couldn't really care less about godheads or ancient typing mechanisms.
Also on the first floor are more abstract works from Amy Elkins, cloudy skies lit with purple haze remind me of a Turner painting, whereas her piece River looks impressionist in its blurred lines and shimmering trees.
Daniel Temkin's work is also on the first floor. Temkin take pictures on what looks like broken film and reassembles them. His piece Glichometry Triangle #1 is displaced in a lighbox, and looks like the pyramids, or the Himalayan, only seen through some kind of psychedelic trance. Glichometry Triangles #3 is those small 'fly eye' toys that have hundreds of mirrors allowing you to see hundreds of versions of one thing, only you have moved it too close, and now the light and color are blurring and moving into one blue and green and yellow Pynchon novel.
Upstairs was mostly installations, Brian Paumier's When I grow Up shows a child’s wall paper with a picture of a soldier with the words, “Just Like You” underneath the frame. Perhaps this is my natural pessimism but I imagine that soldier died, or returned with PTSD.
The back wall played video installations, that have to been seen – Nandida Raman did two videos: Indeterminacy in Religion and Utopia that were beautiful, interesting and a little depressing. Raman also provided the centerpiece of the upstairs, a large polished mirror that reflected the flickering lights of the video and the HVAC unit of the space above, while projecting poetry around it on all sides. The mirror was interactive, the shadows of the people changed the work. Speaking with Raman she said that the mirror was reflective of what the building once was, a church, a ballet studio, a dentist and so on; but for me, the mirror was serene and calming in the chaos of coming upstairs and the sounds of the video installations. The mirror was a pool of serenity, tying the show together.
The other installation brought me to tears; Garret Miller's The special staging of a sinking ship (the Room of Rainer Ochoa) showed a tiny room, littered with booze bottles, cigarette butts, peanut shells, pill bottles and writing on the walls. The room showed someone who had given up on life, and was committing a slow suicide simply by festering. Miller explained the room was an amalgamation of his own experiences, and those of this friend who returned from war and was unable to reintegrate into society – it echoed with me and I think would resonate with anyone who has been severely depressed and living in squalor.
After the intense emotional experience brought on by Miller's work Tim Bradley's well composed, pastel pictures of 1950s life were a relief, although putting Bradley's work with Miller's room and Raman's mirror seemed unfair. Bradley work seemed purposefully boring, perhaps exposition the dullness of life after the war for those who did not fight in it, or perhaps just boring.
In danger of ending on a down note, there was a great instillation at the middle of the stairs with fortune cookies, I got one that read “try another fortune cookie”
Review by John Hutt
Photographs by Reynolds Avlon and Oscar Lopez