JTF (just the facts): A total of 9 large scale color works, framed in white with no mat, and hung in the single room gallery space. The digital c-prints were made between 2005 and 2008 and vary in size between 35×47, 42×63, and 53×64; all of the prints come in editions of 10. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: I first came across the work of the French photographer Mohamed Bourouissa at the Younger Than Jesus show at the New Museum last year (here). This exhibit contains the same body of work that was in that show (Périphéries), only in a much larger sample of images from the series.
Bourouissa’s pictures are staged scenes of young people on the streets and in the suburban neighborhoods of Paris (banlieues). They take on plenty of complex issues: the mixing of cultures and races, the disparity of economic opportunity, the changing dynamics of French society, and the disaffection of youth. Nearly every vignette takes place at a moment of friction, that point where strong emotions and tense violence simmer beneath the surface ready to explode; many capture a stand-off between proud individuals, defending their turf.
Stylistically, even though the works are meticulously staged, the overall effect is more like a fleeting documentary snapshot, thick with gritty realism, taken just at the moment before the action gets heavy. As such, some of the images recall the poised paintings of the 19th century, where the story has been frozen at the height of emotion. Bourouissa’s La République, from 2006, is just such a picture – a youth on a roof top holding a French flag over a night time mob of people; it’s a dead ringer for Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, from 1830 (here).
At a high level, Bourouissa is another example of a contemporary photographer who is using a more painterly approach and mind set in his photographic image making. He is starting with memory, reducing it down to its most important elements and gestures, and then composing the stylized scene for the camera, to give it an added layer of “truth”. While not every scene in this show grabbed me by the throat, a few did, leaving me wondering what this young photographer will show us next.
Collector’s POV: The prints in this show range in price from $4500 to $12000, with lots of intermediate prices along the way; it seems each piece has been priced individually. Since this is Bourouissa’s first solo show in the US, it is not surprising that his work has not yet entered the secondary markets; gallery retail is therefore the only real option for those collectors that want to follow up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Through June 12th
525 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001