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Wednesday 25 May 2011

A Pictorial Stream of Consciousness: Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Sprüth Magers, London.

Review by Jessica Jones-Berney

As I follow the row of Philip-Lorca diCorcia Polaroids lined up against the otherwise sparse white walls of Sprüth Magers, it is like tracing the random fluctuations of a pictorial stream of consciousness. There is no recognisable chronology linking one photograph to the next, just a visual train of thought rapidly shifting narrative, context and subject matter so that our individual perceptions are befuddled. It's a rather humble, scaled-down display compared to the grandiose style accustomed to some of diCorcia's high-conceptual exhibitions. However, this is probably why it feels like I am raiding the inner sanctum of diCorcia's mind; each Polaroid offers a semblance of a life that is verging on the ethereal realm. Although it is clearly fictionalised documentary, where location flits easily from intimate scenes of a mother and child nestled on a bed together to barely discernible woodland scenes, its surreality is utterly captivating.

Having got to grips with conceptual photography in the 1970s, few artists could pull off diCorcia's bizarre juxtapositions. Namely the naked silhouette of a woman, illuminated by the gentle hue of bedroom lighting, pitted against a white haired man conspicuously hiding amidst trees. But it works because the allure of diCorcia rests in the curiosity his work conjures. I can't help wondering what lies beyond the parameters of each frame. Who is the elegant woman draped in silver beside the burnt out taxi cab? Why is a business man clutching a bag of sumptuous oranges instead of a suitcase? Is that Damon Albarn in a bus top?

In fact, the only constant throughout the exhibition is diCorcia's penchant for frames within the frame, using windows and mirrors to capture his subjects in unique and remarkable ways. Considering how the camera/mirror combination summons up notions of surveillance, this faux invasion of privacy would be unsettling if it wasn't so fascinating. DiCorcia's technique makes the mirror's two dimensional function more malleable, using reflections to reveal more angles of the subject and add depth to the photograph.

Perhaps most enthralling, albeit unexpected, are the lascivious shots of acrobatic pole dancers. I should probably tone down my gaping but the precariously compromising angles from which these women hang are such an impressive display of athleticism, skill and endurance, that I am unashamedly captivated. Gone are the sordid neons lights and leering crowd we ordinarily associate with such performance parlours and, in the absence of which, they become rather beautiful.

Things turn from topless to extraterrestrial as I approach the Polaroid of a man crouched on a motel floor, peering into a draw emitting celestial red rays. His face is illuminated with the kind of crimsony amber glow E.T exudes, adding a little mystique to an otherwise mundane hotel room. And I suppose the charm of diCorcia's visual vignettes is imbuing intrigue into the ordinary. Photographic duo FrenchMottershead showed a similar tendency at their recent Over The Threshold exhibition at 1 Berwick House, delving behind the doors of Soho residents to recreate classical tableux with their amusing signature twist. While Paul Graham's exhibition at Whitechapel, proves that there is a picturesque side to one of Britain's least glamorous motoring backbones, the A1.

From scenic to sultry and intimate to explicit, there is little clue as to where diCorcia will take you next in this exhibition. Regardless of the meticulously choreographed process behind this work, he somehow manages to create fleeting, transient images that capture seemingly off-the-cusp moments in enchanting and original ways.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia's Roid continues at Sprüth Magers, London until June 18. For further information visit their website: www.spruethmagers.com

Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London & David Zwirner, New York

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