David Brandon Geeting, Amusement Park @Janet Borden

JTF (just the facts): A total of 18 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are digital chromogenic prints, made in 2017. Physical sizes range from 15×20 to 40×60 inches (or reverse), and all of the images are available in total editions of 3 (regardless of print size). A monograph of this body of work was recently published by Lodret Vandret (here). (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Constant sensory overload is the interaction mode of choice for amusement parks. Between the bright colors, the flashing lights, the clanging noises, the ubiquitous happy music, and the murmur of the teeming crowds, a visit to such a place is an exercise in allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by the wonder of it all, and that momentary euphoria is deliberately cultivated by carnival and amusement park operators. If we’re looking around at all the visual stimulation, the eye-catching dirtactions, and laughing with friends, we might overlook the tired equipment, the bored staff, and the overflowing garbage cans,  digging into our wallets to buy one more ride, one more cotton candy, or one more try at the games. By keeping us occupied with bright, shiny entertainments, we stay a little longer, mesmerized by the spectacle.

David Brandon Geeting’s photographic amusement park is located largely within the confines of his studio, but it is no less visually chaotic and seductively sensory than normal summertime carnivals. While several of his images do indeed capture the sparkly decorations of a merry-go-round and Ferris wheel or the cheerily painted railings of wave rides and roller coasters, these pictures offer a smart foil for his more elaborate arrangements. Most of his works discover tussling visual cacophony on his tabletop, where clusters of layered images and objects wrestle for dominance, but by mixing in images from the outside world, he muddies our ability to easily separate found from constructed.

Given the preponderance of digital manipulation in contemporary photography, it would be natural for us to assume that Geeting’s dense compositions are the result of sophisticated Photoshop usage. But in fact, they are resolutely real and physical, their layers made largely without the aid of cut-and-paste digital tools. Using combinations of printed backdrops, paper photographs, various singular objects, and in some cases, a piece of clear Plexiglas to create further depth and shadows, he leverages the crispness of a commercial/advertising aesthetic into images brimming with energetic playfulness.

Spatial uncertainty is the hallmark of Geeting’s best works. In “Ripped Rabbit Magic”, torn pictures of a rabbit and a top hat are set against a red background, with a shimmery mirrored surface creating blurred reflections underneath. This interplay is then rudely interrupted by the twist of a black audio cable, which sits on top of everything, adding another set of refractions. A similar effect occurs in “Tick Stickers”, where an appropriated microscopic photograph of a tick provides the foundation for a precisely cut image of a burbling splash of milk and several stickers (one from the movie A Bug’s Life), our usual notions of three dimensionality and cast shadows undermined by Geeting’s illusions. The related idea of identifiable surface becomes purposefully unclear in “Birthday Gourds” where water droplets sit atop a wrapping paper backdrop, upended by a selection of knobby gourds, and in “Paradise Slice”, where a dangling slice of veggie pizza blends into the colorful patterns a Thomas Kinkade-style cottage scene.

In other images, Getting uses the trappings of childhood fun as the basis for unexpected visual thinking. By inserting drapery behind the openings of playground equipment, he turns the climbing obstacles into abstractions decorated by handholds, curved edges, and irregularly shaped entry points. Back in the studio, he makes balloon animals (and one balloon sword) the featured actors in still life arrangements with sunset backdrops and carpet remnants, creating scenes where the balloons are treated like players in inexplicable narratives. In both cases, we see him making elements of play the subject of seemingly serious attention. A simple image of a smiley face found in the arrangement of water droplets on a window furthers this ongoing back and forth between levity and formality, and his few studio portraits attempt to find poses and expressions that walk this same edge.

With so much overly serious (and often self-important) photography running around today, Geeting’s embrace of amusement as a theme seems somewhat contrarian, even when he addresses it with real thoughtfulness and complexity. These pictures find jesting enjoyment in the quirks of photographic seeing, and his deliberate willingness to seek out such excesses gives his photographs their vitality.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced between $2000 and $5000, based on size. Geeting’s work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Read more about: David Brandon Geeting, Janet Borden Inc., Lodret Vandret

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