If you missed Kristine Potter’s exquisite black and white portraits of cadets, then you are already losing at life. Something about her pictures of sharply dressed young men, often alone in the woods, always seemed to expose an unspoken sexual repression from the sitter. The subjects always seemed like they were about to walk into a romance novel or a gay porn but were never doing anything that wasn’t above board and in keeping with the code of conduct of a military institution for young men.
I am not sure what has happened since then, but things appear to have become unwound and possibly been left out to dry in the brisk desert light that cuts through much of her recent work. The show is filled with brightly lit underbrush that feels like she is riding shotgun on a road trip with Friedlander, Benson and Szarkowski. The wonderful pictures of thickets and western landscapes are interspersed with portraits of men. Not the young cadets, just out of boyhood, but the men one might find on the edges of the southwest, men that live in a Cormac McCarthy novel, cowboys and burnouts splaying out on rocks, taking shade along river banks or shuffling out of improvised living situations. They all seem to be men who at this point in their lives they are way past the promise of a life in, say, the military. They are from the book after the romance novel where all the tearing of clothes turns out to be the result of emotional instability and a growing substance issue, or the moment just after a porn shoot where actors are left to wonder why their lives have led them to that point. The men aren’t confined by overly formal military attire, and let loose in the still emptied out and unfettered west. I am not entirely sure what has led Potter to these places, but it is certainly a pleasure to be taken along as she makes visually lavish work while bumping up against the edges of society.
Through Nov. 1st