Willie Doherty, One Place Twice, Photo/text/85/92 @Alexander and Bonin

JTF (just the facts): In the first floor entry and gallery spaces, a total of 8 black and white photographic works with text overlays (6 single images and 2 diptychs), mounted on aluminum and unframed. In the second floor gallery, a total of 4 single image color photographs with text overlays, mounted on Plexiglas, and framed in white and unmatted. The black and white prints are each 48×72, in editions of 3 (the diptychs are made up of two panels of the same size). The c-prints are each 43×54, also in editions of 3. The black and white images were taken between 1985 and 1992, while the color images were taken in 2010. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Willie Doherty’s late 1980s photographs from Northern Ireland have all the clever trappings of conceptual photography, but with an unexpectedly harsh political twist. Using bold text overlays reminiscent of those employed by Hamish Fulton, Doherty gives his deadpan images of Derry and its surroundings a sharp sense of tension and conflict.

Most of the pictures capture straight-on views of alleys, vacant lots, and dense side streets, hemmed in by concrete walls, iron fences, chain link barriers and barbed wire. Apartment blocks loom down with protective window grates and properties back up onto each other. The photographs have the abandoned silence of a police state, absent of people and simmering with claustrophobic paranoia. Overlaid texts like Remote Control, Shifting Ground, and God Has Not Failed Us give the images another layer of contextual meaning. This is a battle ground, blanketed with surveillance cameras, constantly under threat from multiple points. A diptych pairing Protecting and Invading highlights this push and pull: looking one direction toward what we want to safeguard and in the other to what we want to take from another. Last Bastion depicts a craggy castle wall amid the weed cracked pavement, both a dividing line and rallying cry.

Doherty’s juxtaposition of text and imagery is altogether more serious and penetrating than the typical tricky irony of other conceptual photography. His photographs have an emotional tug that verges on propaganda, with the kind of succinct shock value that would work well on billboards. In a world of politically correct contemporary photography, these images have a raw, confrontational toughness that seems fresh and bracing.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows: the single image black and white photographs are 20000€ each, and the black and white diptychs are 30000€ each. The single image color photographs are 12000€ each. Doherty’s work has little or no auction history in the secondary markets for photography (perhaps there is more history for his videos in the contemporary art markets, I can’t say), so for his vintage and more recent photographs, gallery retail is still likely the only option for interested collectors.

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