Sasha Bezzubov and Jessica Sucher The Searchers
Front Room Gallery April 11 – May 4, 2008
Every culture has its voyeurs, but somehow it is more horribly acute to see members of our own society peering in at another; sexual tourism in Thailand seems more interesting than sexual tourism in Las Vegas. We either naively idealize this other land and its people, or use them to fill our own low or impenetrable needs. Our longings reflect what we’re not finding at home more than anything real about the object of our hungry gaze.
Decades after the whole Beatles soap opera, the subculture of Westerners seeking enlightenment in India might seem ripe for lampooning, but in their pellucid photos of temples and meditation centers, Sasha Bezzubov and Jessica Sucher create images that feel almost uninflected by subjectivity, as much as we know that that’s impossible. Beautifully executed from large-format negatives, the photos draw the viewer in both to examine their highly detailed images and to offer up a resistance to real knowledge or interpretation. Often Bezzubov and Sucher choose a view from outside a door or at its threshold, looking at scenes that seem somewhere in the middle of a story, neither an exposition nor a concluding statement. The radiantly beautiful Osho No Dimensions Meditation shows people in robes on a floor in a bare room, utterly prostrate in a way that could be interpreted as exhaustion, supplication, or even joy. Shrine focuses on a large placard with a photo of the guru Osho; the luxurious and empty meditation room behind it looks more like a spa than a shrine. The odd elusiveness of images that are otherwise full of information echoes the insatiable nature of the tourist’s desire, built upon distance and incomprehension. If Nirvana is located in Bodh Gaya or Bangkok, to Bodh Gaya or Bangkok we must return and return.
Bezzubov and Sucher’s take is refreshing in that, being already one layer removed—in depicting a world that is, as it were, facing away from the camera to look at another world—the clear-eyed quality of the photos seems less a smug critical distancing than a simple statement of what was observed: I came, I saw, I made art. They deviate from this method in their large images of some of the Western searchers, who are blanketed in a misty aura, like photos of the gurus at whose feet they kneel. Even so, the portraits don’t feel satirical, and the faces, shadowed by days or weeks of fasting and meditation, really look eerie and invested with magical potency, like ancient blue-eyed gods. The portraits are more satisfying on some level than the other works; there is a sense of relief at seeing something we can size up and judge (because we instinctively know how to read faces), which only shows the difficulty of looking without the easy out of satire, especially when it comes to some aspect of ourselves that we find disturbing—that has, in some sense, deserted us.
Singing in Unison:
Artists Need to Create On the Same Scale That Society Has the Capacity to Destroy
JUNE 2022 | Art
Rail Curatorial Projects is proud to present Singing in Unison: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, a multi-venue series of exhibitions that aims to foster social unity in light of the recent political climate and the COVID-19 pandemic. The works shown in these exhibitions exemplify the breadth of the creative world, with artists who are taught and self-taught, young and old, and hailing from every corner of the globe. Singing in Unison is a timely endeavor that celebrates the power of art as a public site to stage programming, including poetry readings, music and dance performances, panel discussions on the subject of democracy, and cooking performances by Rirkrit Tiravanija. All of this is done with the aim of enhancing the art of joining in our various communities and to bring people together.
What Are White People So Afraid Of? Claudia Rankine’s HelpBy Alexis Clements
MARCH 2022 | Theater
Alexis Clements reflects on a trio of works by Claudia Rankinean essay, a book, and a new play starting March 15 at The Sheddissecting how they circle a question that has caught Rankines, and the zeitgeists, attention: why is it so hard for white people to confront their whiteness?
The Asia Society TriennialBy David Carrier, Yung-Wen (Mag) Yao, and Paul Gladston
FEB 2021 | ArtSeen
The exhibitions We Do Not Dream Alone, the inaugural Asia Society Triennial, and Dreaming Together at the New-York Historical Society bring together works by over 40 artists selected from the collections of both institutions in a thoughtful and very welcome showcasing of the work of Asian and Asian-diasporic artists still underrepresented in mainstream Euro-American contexts. At this moment, when the movement of people and even artworks is difficult, the mere existence of this two-museum show is a major accomplishment.
Nuestra Casa: Rediscovering the Treasures of The Hispanic Society Museum & LibraryBy David Carrier
MARCH 2022 | ArtSeen
Because the Hispanic Society is in Washington Heights, Manhattan, it has until recently had a marginal position in the New York art world. Although its only about 75 blocks uptown from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that can seem a long journey to the busy critic. I, at least, confess that in all my years of reviewing, Id never visited this institution. And so, right now, while the museum is closed for renovations, I came because a selection of the best works is on display. How amazing that it took me all of these years to get uptown to see the best portrait in a New York City museum, Francisco de Goyas The Duchess of Alba (1797).