Sunday, April 8, 2012

Stan Douglas, Disco Angola @ David Zwirner

I have to say, I think I like Stan Douglas as a photographer better than I do as a video artist. As inaccessible as his videos’ endless play with narrative are, that same open-endedness, even outright obstruction of narrative content, lends itself to photography, a medium in which the potential for narrative is always obstructed by the silent text less nature of image. Now whether Stan Douglas fully grasps this or not is open for debate. His last show of black and white noirish pictures were great. In the black and white show was almost as if he was channeling David Lynch at the height of his indecipherableness. If this doesn’t sound like a compliment, know that I loved the last couple of Lynch movies. And Douglas’s pictures were right up there. They were clean, simple and made for a fantastically weird narrative experience, given the lack of any clear connection outside the period-piece attire and general mood.

I am less enthused by Disco Angola, his current body of work, and by all means do not read the press release before seeing the pictures. Having them explained, even Douglas’s artistic process, makes me think little less of the work. But if you just address the pictures on the surface, they have a very clear content that oscillates between 1970’s club goers’ partying and African rebels doing rebel stuff like hanging out and setting road blocks, you know, the usual.  The work creates a charming narrative of an European independent movie about European colonists who awaken to the greater world around them through time traveling and partying in pre-independence colonial Africa.

This easily read narrative combined with the foreign location, disco stylings, and the perfect lighting of the large, staged narrative photographs drain the play of visual narrative that I assume Douglas is shooting for. It’s more of a water-downed version of Philip-Locra diCorcia fashion spread from W. And despite the recent book and show at Zwirner, diCorcia always claimed his fashion work was in itself a watered-downed version of his art.

Through Apr. 28th


Thomas said...

Is that Disco Stu?

Carl Gunhouse said...


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