BRUSSELS.- Gladstone Gallery
presents its fourth exhibition by artist Roe Ethridge, whose photographs deconstruct visual syntax by consciously reworking tropes of both stock imagery and fine art. These new works serve as an extended meditation on genres and styles associated with the traditions of Dutch painting, particularly the still life, domestic scene, and portraiture. Ethridge reflects on these models as foundational to "visual culture" in exposing the image as a material construction that simultaneously produces and is produced by complex relationships: artist and subject, nature and technology, and the personal and the social. Through this lens, he connects disparate figures, including mushroom spores, holiday tchotchkes, and fashion models, via subtle formal cues-such as color, reoccurring motif, or compositional correspondence-that denaturalize the photograph's claims to objectivity.
In these slyly complex images, Ethridge utilizes a hybrid of digital and analogue techniques to denude signification from its source and resituate assumed relations within an uncanny valley somewhere between art history and contemporary meme culture. Indexing the fugal reiterations of production and transmission, Ethridge constructs his images around mass-produced objects and mediated layers of imagery to reveal his own ambivalent stance on photography's authenticity. In this way, he reframes the generic customs of the Dutch masters for the age of the camera-phone, critiquing both the ubiquity of the image and blurring the distinction between deskilled and conceptual practices. His portraits capture unexpected subjects, such as an inflatable alien toy, or the pre-teen drag queen Lactacia dolled up in Western wear. Kitschy salt and pepper shakers in the shape of turkeys replace the domestic abundance associated with still life painting-now covered in electric green slime, as if molded over or infected with American toxic masculinity. He uses patterns that seem like innocuous backdrops; and yet, in their repetition, emoji graphics, mycological spores, or even portraits of artist Richard Prince evacuate the illusion of tangible space, heightening tension within the construction of the image. This body of work coheres around the performative residue in the photograph's reproduction of reality: relics of domestic comfort promote a sense of phoniness inherent in stylized nostalgia, while the enigmatic expression of a cover model looking up from her phone emphasizes both the subject's and the viewer's complicity in the fabrication of everyday life.
Roe Ethridge was born in 1969 in Miami, Florida, and lives and works in New York. His photographs have appeared in solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; and Le Consortium, Dijon, France. Ethridge has also been included in group exhibitions at notable institutions including: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Barbican Center, London; MoMA PS1, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.