Out of Focus
Saatchi Gallery, London
September 27—November 4, 2012
»This latest in the Saatchi Gallery’s whopping survey shows turns to contemporary photography. Forty artists (not all call themselves photographers) are represented, with a huge array of styles and methods, but the show’s title, Out of Focus, is sadly apt. By the time I got to the end, I couldn’t remember where I’d been.
That’s not to say that there aren’t many memorable moments. Most of the work in this show is of a high quality and worth seeing. A series by Katy Grannan, of portraits taken on the streets of San Francisco, is absorbing — Grannan’s stark light and sharp focus picks out every flaw in the sagging bodies of her old bikers, thinning trannies and over- dressed eccentrics. You want to know their stories, but then a few minutes in the Tenderloin district of that city yields enough characters for a novel even without a camera. Entirely different but equally fascinating are Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s fragments of pictures from the Belfast Exposed archive. They enlarged and printed only the bits obscured by the circular stickers placed randomly on the prints by archivists. Revealed are such strange and troubling items as a man handcuffed to a pipe and covered in paint, a child’s head having a wound dressed, or a bird in a hand.
Personal favourites were Mariah Robertson’s sculptural, rippling roll of photographic print in myriad colours, and Andreas Gefeller’s impossible aerial shots of studios at the Dusseldorf Academy of Arts (made with up to 100 individual shots, they look almost seamless, given away only by the crazy angles of the radiators). I have long been a fan of John Stezaker’s witty collages of faces and landscapes, but enjoyed discovering Laurel Nakadate’s deliberately naff “sexy” pictures, smudged by the grubby fingers of men invited to paw them on Craigslist.
A.L. Steiner’s collage of tits’n’ bits stopped many viewers in their tracks, forcing them to consider the fluidity of gender and sexuality.
Ultimately though, I left feeling rather perplexed — the variety is astonishing but it feels uncurated. The catalogue suggests looking at this show through “an appropriate lens — a kaleidoscope”. It made my eyes go a bit funny.«
Nancy Durrant, The Times UK