Ken Lavey, Allyson Anne Lamb, Desiree Kong @MARYMARY projects

JTF (just the facts): A group show containing the work of 3 artists/photographers, the images variously framed/unframed, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space.

The following artists have been included, with the number of works on view, their processes and details as background:

  • Desiree Kong: 2 mixed media works, 2017, sized 44×88, in editions of 3, 4 mixed media works, 2017, dimensions variable, each unique, 2 pigmented inkjet prints, 2017, sized 44×88, in editions of 3
  • Allyson Anne Lamb: 5 pigmented inkjet prints, 2013, sized between 17×22 and 20×22 (or reverse), in editions of 10
  • Ken Lavey: 4 pigmented inkjet prints face mounted to non glare Plexiglas, 2016, sized 32×48, in editions of 5, 5 pigmented inkjet prints on dibond, 2016, sized 11×17, in editions of 5

(Instalation shots below.)

Comments/Context: As many small and medium sized galleries have struggled with the unpleasant realities of the “grow or go” contemporary art market, one of the possible solutions that continues to surface is the strategy of moving to a “projects” approach, where the dealer gets out from under the economic/organizational requirements of a permanent physical gallery space and does shorter, more guerrilla-style shows in “pop-up” spaces. And all of this works fine given some key assumptions – that the gallery has a great direct email list (particularly of collectors), some high powered social media, and/or a few effective marketing people to help the public find the improvised shows, given that they are by definition tucked away in some random place not normally associated with the gallery.

Both the positives and negatives of this model hit home for me during my recent visit to a pop-up show organized by MARYMARY projects. The good news is that I did actually get an announcement email, I didn’t lose it in my inbox, and I was able to easily find the exhibit location. But the bad news is that the show was only open for a week (a very short run) and I was only able to get there on the afternoon it was closing, so this review offers a somewhat annoying outcome – the discussion of a solid show that will be impossible to actually visit. Maybe the best conclusion is to exercise some patience, as the kinks in this new model are still very much being worked out.

Far more important than these market machinations and logistical concerns is the quality of the photography on view, and this tightly edited three-person show is full of new discoveries. No obvious stylistic or subject matter theme runs through the work of these three, so their connection as alumni of the BFA Photography & Video program at the School of Visual Arts is likely the underlying link most worth noting.

At first glance, Ken Lavey’s sinuous surfaces offer few clues to their actual origins. One initial idea is that they might be software-based 3D renderings of some hopelessly smooth futuristic material, where dripping hollows are formed by elastic pulls and digital distortions. Another possibility is more vaguely sensual, the elegant indentations and orifices in his compositions perhaps clad in some kind of shiny latex or fetish leather. When we are later told that the images actually document the inside forms of everyday plastic watering cans, their compositional cleverness (and our embarrassing futility at identification) is revealed. The inversion is simple but powerful, and the permutations of the series are each quietly provocative.

Desiree Kong’s sculptural works smartly explore the increasing malleability of the printed photograph. She starts with appropriated photographs that are then digitally swirled and manipulated, and ultimately prints them out on large undulating sheets of paper, perforated mesh, shiny vinyl, and even roughly scissored silk. It’s clear from her results that she is busy working through an experimental aesthetic progression, as the paper sheets quickly give way to multi-layered works that add wire mesh and sharp fish hooks(!), and then on to more intimate wall sculptures that incorporate various kinds of crinkled sheeting and plastic wrap. When I was told that these works were portraits (or self-portraits), I have to admit I was floored – what I saw were complex image abstractions filled with investigations of volume, surface, and texture. But the more I looked and considered them in this alternate way, the more I was willing to give into the conceptual idea that such vibrant twists of spatial imagery could indeed represent facets of a person, or better yet, of a carefully controlled digital persona. There is undoubtedly the kernel of something boldly original going on here, even if it is still searching for its ultimate manifestation.

Allyson Anne Lamb’s photographs are the most straightforward in this show, in that we can at least immediately discern their subject matter – the surprisingly regal form of a white Brahman cow, as seen with a variety of female nudes (human). While this might seem like a hopelessly incongruous combination, the results are exactly the opposite – the pictures are consistently gentle and elegant, full of the echoes of curves and skin. What I like best is that we can easily stack layers of readings on top of the images. At the most crass, we can see the theme of breeding stock, the image of the matching curving hindquarters of cow and woman making that comparison plainly overt. But if we then recognize the Brahman cow in its place as a sacred Hindu symbol, the intertwining of bodies feels wholly reverent, the two joined as objects of worship. And in between, we can simply revel in the juxtaposed textures of skin, where surreal green and pink lights add to the eerie communion. While animal photography can often be cloying, Lamb’s nudes thoroughly upend the usual conventions, bring earthy folkloric mystery to her humble cattle.

All three of these early career photographers have developed sophisticated bodies of work that point the way to future promise. If every summer group show could deliver such consistent interest, there’d be reason enough to stay home from the beach.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows, by artist:

  • Desiree Kong: $600, $800, or $1100 each
  • Allyson Anne Lamb: $750 each
  • Ken Lavey: $900 or $2500 each

None of these artists has any secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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Read more about: Allyson Anne Lamb, Desiree Kong, Ken Lavey, MARYMARY Projects

One comment

  1. Mary Ehni /

    The MARYMARY projects exhibition can be viewed
    by private appointments .

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