Janice Guy – Untitled (1979)

Murray Guy is one of the most preeminent galleries for photography, film and video.

Janice Guy is the co-founder and co-owner through March 2017.

She founded the gallery in the 1990s after moving to NYC from Düsseldorf, Germany.

In Düsseldorf, she studied photography at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, working closely with Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Being a woman and a photographer preoccupied with self-portraiture, she’s frequently lumped together with folks like Ana Mendieta, Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman–the operative framing being fixated on artists as both simultaneously author and subject.

To think of it that way strikes me as a bit lazy. It fits–with certain limits–for Sherman and Woodman–less so for Mendieta; however, most of Guy’s photos feel less like self-portraiture and more like proto-selfies.

If one were to describe Guy’s work she documents herself as a photographer considering herself in a mirror–i.e. she’s not setting up the camera like Sherman or Woodman and then positioning herself in front of it; she’s interested in including considerations of process in her product (if you subtract capitalist connotations and instead consider the term in a more mathematical sense).

She’s nude in most of her work–except for a utilitarian wristwatch.

Her work wasn’t really exhibited until the late aughts–but there continues to be interest in it to this day and I suspect that interest may even grow down the line.

Roe EthridgeAmazing Grace feat. Grace Hartzel in collaboration with Fendi for Document Journal (2016)

You can’t dismiss the importance of the author in the case of this image. But it’s hardly the first place I even want to go…

I mean: it’s lovely. Someone should write a dissertation on the skin tone. (Most work with exquisite skin tone accomplishes it by an Albers-esque limiting of the color palate. For example: you frame things in such a way that the color palate is limited to two complimentary colors and you limit the range of those two colors and this allows you to stretch the range of subtle gradation and range within skin tone.

And that’s part of what’s going on here–the fuzzy yellow purse, the blonde wood on the chair and the bleached khaki color of the wooden wind chimes.

It’s the flourishes that separate this work from your run-of-the-mill fashion editorial. Note: the rose gold of Grace’s phone, the azure line reflected in her shades and the green grass pushing up through seams in the concrete underneath the chairs chrome legs.

One could argue that perhaps the concrete goes a touch too green around the gills–but it’s not that bad, really. And the dynamic range in the picture is insane–especially given that the aforementioned trick with good skin tone demands a better range of mid-tones through limiting areas of extreme over and underexposure where this has (I’m guessing) probably a 9 or 10 stop range.

Let’s back track and address the author of this image: Roe Ethridge. The gallery world really likes to bend itself into pretzel shapes to justify the art-worthiness of his work. A lot of it is found or appropriated work that is retooled to a specific conceptual end. A metric shit tonne of ink has been spilled on the topic and everyone is saying the same things poorly.

Too much criticism hinges on a sort of scientific-mathematical proof of a point. I think some of it serves a purpose. Most of it? Not so much.

I get a lot of shit for being a ‘colossal dick’ when I take a particular facet of something I post here to task. Here’s the thing: the sheer fact that I posted something here means that something about it struck me as meritorious. Frequently it’s one thing and I spend ¾ of the post playing whack a mole with the stuff I want to disavow from it, but that’s another story.

My point is–to quote El Duderino: It’s just like my opinion, man. You should take it with a Gibraltar sized boulder of fucking salt. Your mileage will vary, etc., etc.

The only rule is does it blow your hair back? If so, that’s great. And if you’re interested in going a step further, start asking yourself why it blows your hair back? That is all I’m trying to do here. I’m trying to point to concrete correlations whether they are technical bits or free associations from my own experience that enhance the impact of the work.

If you disagree with what I’m saying–I’m not right automatically and you’re not wrong by default either.

Like it’s fine if you adore something that no one else really cares for. But excepting my brother–who is an asshole–it’s fine if you like the musical stylings of Creed. I don’t and were never going to see eye to eye. But generally speaking, I know a lot of people who like Creed personally but do not feel the need to evangelize for them being the greatest thing that happened ever to music.

That’s really one of the only things critics are good for–keeping artists and their fans honest.