Sunday, March 10, 2013

John Lehr, Low Relief @ Kate Werble Gallery

I am a fan of John Lehr’s work. He is very good at something that is very difficult, which is making very formal and often-graphic pictures interesting. He has achieved this mostly through a keen eye, a great deal of skill and applying talents to highlighting little unloved tracts of American society, like weathered signs, empty display windows and advertising of all kinds. Lehr created a powerful world where abandoned working class neighborhoods seemed to be careening into a reality of nothing but billboards for fast food and low cost luxuries. But like many photographers I come to love, I eventually find myself in the position of writing critically about their work. I love John Lehr’s pictures but I don’t love this show. You could see that his work was moving in a more formal direction and maybe he felt he was relying too much on subject matter, but I am just not that thrilled with this sparse show of attractive but ultimately emptied out pictures. They are lovely to look at and actually more so than anything he has done up to this point, but if he is trying to see how little he could show but still communicate some greater meaning, I think the formalism has won out. This isn’t to say there isn’t value in formalism for the sake of formalism, it’s just not really my bag. Weirdly, at the same time, the whole show makes me very interested to see where he is going.

Through Mar. 23rd


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