Leslie Fritz, New York, NY
September 3 - October 6 2013
Talia Chetrit’s current exhibition at Leslie Fritz, her third solo show with the gallery, initially presents itself as a large-scale family album. In variously sized prints, in black-and-white and color, we see her mother, father, brother, and the photographer herself, pictured today and as they appeared some eighteen years ago. The show originates in Chetrit’s scanning of old negatives from the first rolls of film she shot as an adolescent in the mid-1990s. They were intimate, direct portraits of the subjects most immediately available to her: her own family in and around their suburban Washington, DC home. Chetrit re-cropped and re-edited these old images, and returned to photograph her family again for the most recent work in the exhibition, mixing these two moments in this installation.
We see the photographer at thirteen, posed awkwardly on a stool, sitting beside a pool, or joined by her mother. She then reappears as an adult, in a studio self-portrait with long hair, or walking outdoors, or sitting in the landscape, again with her mother. Parents pose together, or are caught in moments of solitary reflection or relaxation. The juxtaposition of pictures of the same individuals separated by almost two decades materializes that gap in time, reminding us of the photographic image’s status as witness to “what has been,” to recall Roland Barthes famous description. Chetrit has remarked on the moodiness or darkness of this series, yet the pathos of these works does not really stem from the tragedy of the passage of time.
That particular tonality seems rather to derive from Chetrit’s ongoing exploration of concealment, of what remains hidden even within a technology devoted to the visible. Closer examination of the photographs reveals patterns of occluded gazes, masked looks, and blocked faces, and suddenly the kinship of this exhibition with the artist’s previous work, such as the Hand series (2012), becomes evident. What is new, however, and what defines these new
photographs as so remarkable an achievement is that it is no longer simply a matter of physical concealment and its attendant erotics that Chetrit has taken up, but the alternating forms of emotional concealment and exposure characterizing the family romance itself.
- Tom McDonough