Out of Focus

Posted on June 5, 2012


Katy Grannan: Anonymous, Los Angeles, Boulevard 11 2009

Out of Focus at the Saatchi Gallery is an exhibition that truly lives up to its name, and not in a derogatory way.

The first major photography exhibition at the acclaimed Chelsea venue sees 38 photographers from all over the world present a swirling cauldron of filtered, backlit, double exposed delights. It’s by no means any kind of structured homage to contemporary photography, or a snapshot of where the industry’s at in 2012, but more a means for Charles Saatchi to showcase his eclectic taste in pictures.

It’s a chance for anyone to dip their toes into a huge, chaotic ocean of artists and photographers taking on disparate themes of nature, objectification and the metropolis, to name but a few – with no dots to connect the void inbetween. Which makes for a confusing, but visually exciting, experience.

Mariah Robertson – 88 (2010)

Upstairs the body serves as a canvas for sexuality and fetish with photographers like Michele Abeles and Laurel Nakadate exploring the human form in multiple, gritty shots of naked adventures. Mariah Robertson’s photogram experiments on a 70-meter roll of photographic paper surge across the gallery floor, reminiscent of a roll of negatives,  perhaps in reference to the decline of print photography in an age where everything is digitalised. Poor Kodak, eh?

Sohei Nishino’s huge collages of Paris, Tokyo and New York are amazing – and easily recognisable as these sprawling metropolises, which is astounding considering they’re made from thousands of individual photo segments which have been painstakingly positioned to form a bigger picture. The attention to detail is incredible and draws you in to the point your nose is almost grazing the frame.

The ground floor held the most treasures for me. Katy Grannan’s series of large portraits of Los Angeles boulevardiers invites you into an up-close-and-personal world of haggard, flawed and worn down human beings, with their imperfections bared and veiled gazes often unable to meet the line of the camera. David Benjamin Sherry uses coloured filters to depict cyan, yellow, lavender and red American mountainside vistas, lakes and forests. All that intense colour makes me feel oddly peaceful.

David Benjamin Sherry – Hyperborealis

If you’re too cheap to fork out for the £1 exhibition guide (I was), there’s very little in the way of background information to educate us about the image, or the artist behind the lens. This means each photo must be judged on its ability to sustain interest as a standalone piece of art – which is something of a relief when moving from abstract to classical to macabre all within the same room.

You get the feeling that if you were to learn enough about each photographer’s offerings, as you vault from concept to concept, room to room and artist to artist, your head might explode and, well, that would make for a very tiresome cleanup routine at the Saatchi Gallery.

Out Of Focus runs until 22 July and admission is free.

Image Credits:

Grannon’s Anonymous LA Boulevardier – http://www.theartsdesk.com
Mariah Robertson’s 88 – http://www.art-corpus.blogspot.co.uk

David Sherry’s Hyperborealis – http://www.theartdesk.com

Posted in: Art and Culture