JTF (just the facts): A total of 6 large scale photographic works, unframed, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space. The works are either digital prints on aluminum or digital silkscreens on durabond, made in 1990-2016. Physical sizes range from roughly 44×60 to 70×81, and all of the works are unique. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: In the past two decades, one of the trickiest challenges facing contemporary photographers has been how to represent the overflow of imagery that now dominates our life on the Internet. Inherent in our online experience is a sense of assaulting visual overload, an oscillating mix of public and private, and a jarring juxtaposition of pictures that are forced to coexist in uneasy and often unintentionally ironic proximity. In an attempt to capture this frantic jumble of pictorial stimulation, artists like Kate Steciw, Michele Abeles, Anouk Kruithof, and others have recently experimented with a variety of visual vocabularies, from swirled stock footage that mimics endless intermingling to overlapping software windows that pile up like interleaved layers.
Anne Doran’s contributions to this visualization effort feel like a bridge between two time periods and world views. Rooted in the appropriation strategies of the Pictures Generation artists and largely using photographs she sourced in the 1990s, her wall filling collages are filled with images that feel subtly dated, like throwbacks to the pre-digital age. And yet those same pictures are physically organized in ways that replicate the freshly contemporary falling, spinning, and manic jumping that our eyes use to navigate the available choices. So at one moment, her works feel akin to the carefully constructed rebuses and visual puzzles of John Baldessari, and in the next, they seem to purposefully dissolve into a chaotic tumble of deliberate competition and distraction that feels distinctly now.
All of Doran’s works put imagery into combat, and like the banner ads that linger on the edges of our peripheral vision when surfing websites, her ads and product placements are a constant disruption, so much so that they threaten to become the primary subject. In Chenille, Doran offers a spectrum of personal spaces, starting with the dullness of rolling chairs in an empty office, moving to the lush leather seats of a car interior, and finally on to the soft porn skin of fragmented naked bodies, our gentle trajectory rudely interrupted by an image of steel shelving on sale, with shouting red price tags to catch our attention. In another work, the commercial boredom of metal filing cabinets and what looks like an industrial toaster is made bouncy by the interjection of a Fab fabric softener stock shot, the bold red lettering literally climbing above the images falling away underneath. The ads are so woven into the fabric of the rest of the imagery that they start to become part of the content itself.
This is particularly true of Tank, a work anchored by the rolling wheels of a military vehicle and then decorated with commercial associations. The muddy ground on which the tank sits is flanked by a crisp roll of stain resistant carpet, and the trappings of war make the black and white ads for crystal lamps further away look like mushroom clouds. And just when we start to see these thoughtful linkages, a Super Sale! on office supplies blasts in from the bottom to make us momentarily forget what we were thinking about. In other works, similar flows of ideas are interrupted by blurry cat pictures and video game stills, our multi-tasking minds never quite allowed to settle on conclusions or insights.
Part of the reason Doran’s collages are successful is that she understands the proportions of sculpture better than most photographers. While her images are cut into hard edged geometric blocks and polygons, the works seem to wander like stepping stones, one image connecting to the next, and so on through a natural progression of fore and back. The result is collages that understand their scale and presence, and how the negative space between images will create the appearance of shifting instability.
I for one hope Doran leverages the metaphorical elegance of this aesthetic structure and fills it going forward with some truly current imagery, as the addition of an Internet meme, a celebrity selfie, a Snapchat filter portrait, or a scarily personalized ad might make her assembled ideas feel even more incisive. She’s smartly captured the additive nature of our image world – now she needs to push out to the front edge of the wave to give us a sharper sense of sophisticated cultural vertigo.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced at $10000, $12500, or $14000, based on size. Doran’s work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.