“Fast Forward//Rewind” at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia is an exhibition of photo-based work steeped in blazing color, theatricality, eccentricity and a definite streak of humor.
The show’s origins are the annual “Ones to Watch” exhibitions organized over the past eight years by local collector and curator Mary Wilson Stanley and presented as part of the annual Atlanta Celebrates Photography event to highlight a group of national photographers of note selected by Stanley.
The array of artists included here defies easy categorization beyond personal taste: Well-established vets like Nancy Floyd, Bill Yates and Carl Martin rub elbows with new kids on the block like Portland-based Holly Andres. Andres continues her fascination with retro-infused storytelling, part film still and part storybook in her inimitable, wonderfully elliptical “The Summer of Hornets.” In a series of Kodachrome-rich images, we watch a lovely middle-American family contend with a plague of insects invading their sunny domestic calm.
If there’s a unifying thread in much of “Fast Forward//Rewind,” it is a shared love of excess in both theme and form and a curator who enjoys the art of juxtaposition, the better to goose a reaction from viewers. And though there are works in black and white in the mix, it’s the highly stylized, saturated color work like Langdon Clay’s grimy, atmospheric ’70s-era color shots of cars on New York City streets coordinated to their settings like chameleons miming their environment that tends to stand out in “Fast Forward//Rewind.”
There is some laugh-out-loud funny work here. Suggesting a canny Elliott Erwitt observer of the small-scale absurdities of modern life, Trenton Moore offers images of commuters waiting for the bus glued to their individual cellphones or of a pot-bellied flaneur traversing the city on a Segway. Though living cheek to jowl, the people in Moore’s shots seem to spiritually reside on separate planets. Brooklyn-based artist Tommy Kha’s related images of disconnection are moody self-portraits of the diminutive photographer being passionately kissed by a rotating cast of Brooklyn hipsters. Kha stands side-eyed and passive, a block of wood amid all of that demonstrative amour. If you were so inclined, it would be tempting to read the series as a larger statement about the difficulty of intimacy in the age of Tinder.
For sheer audaciousness, it’s hard to beat the Hieronymus Bosch-meets-Matthew Barney lunacy of another NYC-based artist, Sarah Small. Her video piece “Tableau Vivant of the Delirium Constructions,” staged on scaffolding in an enormous historic bank building, is an outsize, fleshy spectacle modeled on Victorian-era tableau vivants, or “living pictures.” In the video, an array of 120 models in every shape and size and in various states of undress are arranged like dancers in a Busby Berkeley musical number as they act out a wedding cake scene of sex and romance. Small has said the work is about “the human quest for intimacy,” and there is a strange sweetness and vulnerability in all of these exposed, diverse people assembled for this carnivalesque performance.
Offering up even more indie sexiness is photographer Teri Darnell’s theatrical portraits of gender-bending dress-up in the “Berlin Kabarett Der Namenlosen” series in which guys and dolls in elaborate wigs and costumes act out some Weimar Republic decadence.
In more socially engaged work, Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay examines the soul-crushing grind of outsourcing in “Outsourced: Fall.” And suggesting a redo of myths about black masculinity, Pulitzer Prize-winning San Francisco photographer Preston Gannaway offers tender images of playful, loving, complex gay black men.