JTF (just the facts): A total of 20 large scale color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the North and South gallery spaces and the side alcove. All of the works are c-prints, made between 2005 and 2012. Print sizes range from 14×14 to 56×75 (or reverse), in editions of 6 or 10. A monograph of this body of work was recently published by Rizzoli (here) and is available from the gallery for $75. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Miles Aldridge’s complex sense for brash stylized color sets his work apart from other contemporary fashion photographers. As seen in this retrospective show of work from roughly the past decade, his precisely staged images are over-the-top exercises in color theory, where every detail and prop is carefully orchestrated for maximum intensity. When added to satirical scenes of blanked eyed women in oddly glamorized domestic situations, his distinctive eye for color makes the photographs even more dynamic and vital.
In Aldridge’s hands, female stereotypes are pushed beyond the edge of exaggeration into a surreal world of dark social commentary. A desperate red lipped homemaker stabs an imperfect birthday cake with a huge kitchen knife, a woman in plastic lingerie breaks down over a sliced half grapefruit, a deadpan woman in a tight green dress and red heels is stuffed into the under sink area normally reserved for rubber gloves and toilet cleaner, and a robotic mother in thigh high boots and a perfect black ensemble strides through a gaggle of soccer playing boys (a weird futuristic “soccer mom”). In nearly every situation, the subject has been pushed to an emotional extreme: either anesthetized like a mannequin or on the verge of losing control.
A scene of a smashed dinner tray, an overstuffed Cadillac full of shopping bags and packing trunks, or an overdone dinner party dripping in glamorous boredom all have their own sense of cliché, but Aldridge takes them somewhere new with his use of color. In nearly every image (even the most muted ones), it’s as if he has consciously taken out the color wheel to target complementary pairs. A zoned out woman dries her hair in a bathroom full of acidic greens and orange pinks: green tile, red towel, green slip, pink slip, green curtains, orange hair dryer, plastic rings in both colors – it’s a symphony in hot, matchy matchy contradiction. These kinds of opposites are everywhere in this show: a bright yellow and red checkerboard floor, blue water behind an orange bikini clad woman, orange soccer uniforms against electric green turf, a dramatic red dress against a green floral carpet; they all add visual tension to the already inflated scenes.
While at first glance it might be easy to mistake these fashion images for fun-loving visual camp, I like the way they grow darker and more depressing with more sustained looking. Everything is just so but blown to the point of parody, like scenes of zombies in overdone gilded prisons.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced between $5150 and $15500 (with many intermediate prices), generally based on size. Aldridge’s work is not widely available in the secondary markets, although a handful of lots have come up for auction in recent years; prices for those lots ranged between roughly $6000 and $12000.