By Jeff Davis
Doublespeak: Yale MFA Photography 2017 is currently on exhibit at Shulamit Nazarian through August 5, 2017. Over 50 works by ten Yale University MFA Photography graduates are on display at the gallery. The photos were taken over a unique two year span beginning in 2015, coinciding with the presidential nomination process and continuing through the early months of the Trump presidency.
While photographic images have always been subject to viewer interpretation, in this new era of “Alternative Facts” and “Fake News,” the opportunity for distortion and manipulation has become even greater. Without the photographers present or a detailed explanation accompanying the images, the photos can be viewed through any lens and used to support the narrative of one’s choice.
I loved looking at the images and creating multiple explanations in my head for each shot. As you enter the gallery, the image of photographer Res’ mother holding up a sign displaying “I Am the Woman Who Built Trump Tower” is designed to catch your eye. Photos of the Tower renderings along with shots of a gold and diamond ring engraved with “Towers of Thanks” and “Love Donald” follow. What’s the story behind the pictures? Years later, does she still back the president because of his support of women in the workplace; did she protest his candidacy because of his stance on immigration, refugees, climate change, the objectification of women or another issue; perhaps she melted down the gold and diamond ring to pay for her out of network healthcare? Interpret as you see fit.
Harry Griffin’s work focuses on his grandparents home in Florida. Griffin creates a replica of the home in excruciating detail, including fine touches such as display plates perched on overhead shelves and miniature playing cards on the poker table. At one point, this home may have represented the American Dream; however, his other photos show it in disrepair. And subsequently, it burned down during the funeral of his grandmother, allowing a potential rebirth? While the model is quite is impressive, the most striking of his photos is that of “Adalee.”
The tiny infant is held by a male relative’s giant paws against a pink polka dot and green background. The grip is so stunningly awkward that it’s hard to fathom what’s going on here. Is the father wearing a pink gown with green scrubs in a hospital where the nurse failed to mention the basics of how to hold an infant? Is this just another creative backdrop to get “likes” and comments by friends on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – you choose.
Danna Singer’s “After” is another of my favorites. It depicts a very attractive, sultry female figure sitting in a mobile home booth deep in contemplation while a semi-obscured male friend is using the toilet while smoking a cigarette in the background. This work looks a bit staged compared to her other more serious images, but the possibilities are countless. Is she thinking “what happened last night, how on God’s green earth did I end up here?” Or perhaps, this is a real life sequel to Natural Born Killers.
There are numerous works to tempt your creative skills. Go see the exhibit – you won’t be disappointed!
While you are in the neighborhood make sure to drive over to the recently opened Marciano Art Foundation located 2.5 miles away at the intersection of Lucern and Wilshire Boulevard near Korea town. The Foundation houses the collection of the Marciano Brothers – famous for their 1980’s Guess Jeans empire. The museum focuses on contemporary art from the 1990’s and onward with over 1500 artworks by more than 200 established, mid-career and emerging artists. The main exhibit is called “Unpacking The Marciano Collection,” curated by Philipp Kaiser.
The collection is not as encyclopedic as the Broad in terms of contemporary art – meaning not every art superstar is displayed one after another. Rather, a more generous sampling of fewer artists such as Mark Bradford, Mark Grotjhan, Wade Guyton, Takashi Murakami and Sterling Ruby are on display.
The collection is housed in the 100,000 square foot former home of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple (built in 1961). The building has been repurposed, however, many of the architectural bones remain and a small exhibit about the temple is on display in the renovated library. “The Relic Room: Masonic Objects” exhibits documents sets, photographs and Masonic paraphernalia (hats, costumes, masks etc.). In the theater section of the Museum some of the original backdrops found in the Temple productions hang alongside newly created pieces. Don’t miss the Jim Shaw: The Wig Museum exhibit in the same section off to the corner.
Like the Broad, tickets are free and available on the web for entry Thursday – Saturday; however, there is no stand by line. So if you don’t reserve, you are out of luck. On the other hand, limited two hour free on-site parking is available for those with a with a valid entrance ticket.
Get a free pair of custom Guess jeans when you step into the high tech laser measurement booth located in the basement maze section of the Temple. 100 optical lasers rapidly scan your measurements and display your silhouette as “live art” on a 20 x 40 inch screen to the audience on Wilshire Boulevard. A small price to pay for a pair of skin-tight custom jeans? (just kidding!)