New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Christopher Anderson
Capitolio
R Wayne Parsons
Christopher Anderson, “Untitled” Altimira, courtesy Milk Gallery

If you want to explore or emphasize life’s nitty-gritty with photographs, use high contrast black-and-white. For real in-your-face, print them as large as possible –- in this case as much as 6 feet by 10 feet. Christopher Anderson uses this formula with modest success in “Capitolio,” his current exhibition at Milk Gallery.

This series of images takes its name from a metro station in Caracas, Venezuela. In his artist statement Anderson notes that he was thinking of a film when he made these still photos and that he doesn’t “see the space between the images.” This exhibition embraces this perspective literally by presenting some of the photos printed continuously with no margins separating the contiguous images. For one sequence of seven photographs this artifice is compelling; the standout image in this series shows a man with a bandage on one arm holding a slip of paper directly in front of the camera, partially obscuring his face. We can determine nothing of what’s on the paper, so the substance of the apparently significant drama is left to our imagination (there are no explanatory captions or informative titles to any of the photos in the show).

Another sequence of five photos is comprised of mundane images of little interest –- high rise buildings, a swimming pool, the shadow of a tree on a wall, etc. –- and consequently is much less successful. The arbitrariness of this approach is evident in the exhibition check list, where we find a completely different sequence of the five.

 by unidentified photographer.
Christopher Anderson, “Untitled” Boy courtesy Milk Gallery

The single most successful image in this show is of a young adolescent boy, bare-chested, standing on top of a cinder block wall with his companion in a secondary role on the ground below, the out-of-focus Caracas skyline in the background. It is not clear if we are looking at a never-completed project or an abandoned demolition. The protagonist in this image, who completely dominates the picture, is most handsome, even angelic, in appearance. Does he represent an angel of grace come to redeem the city, or a life of youthful promise on the verge of corruption from the crime, poverty and inequities of his environment? Your call. Unfortunately, most of the images in the exhibition do not live up to the high standard set by “Untitled, Boy.”

Anderson refers to his photographic style as “experiential documentary” and describes this project as “about an experience, a portrait of a time and a place.” Apparently he interprets this philosophy as relieving himself of the obligation to provide the viewer with a reasoned and cogent description of his work. We are given an outsider’s view of this society with no more than an outsider’s understanding. I for one would like a bit more information as to what we are seeing, and why.

Christopher Anderson
Capitolio


Milk Gallery
450 W 15th St. 1st Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 645 2797
milkstudios.com

Friday, March 19 to
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 to 6
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