Beep Beep Gallery's new show takes pleasure in old ways
Double Vision big on feeling, small on statement
Just hours before the opening of the photo group show Double Vision, there are Miller High Life cans still strewn around Beep Beep Gallery like dandelions on an unmowed lawn.
It's all part of the gallery's adorably rough-hewn vibe that its fans have come to know and love: equal parts indie inspiration and semi-neglected art clubhouse. Gallery owners Mark Basehore and James McConnell are sticking to their guns to give greener artists — those often denied a more established, commercial space — a chance.
The photography in Double Vision toes the Beep Beep line: Some is inspired, and some suffers from the artists' mistaken impression that because the space is still a bit raw after five years, their work can afford to be. Double Vision is a mixed bag with a crop of artists often foregrounding presentation and old-school methods. In an age when digital is king, more than 80 percent of Double Vision's photographs were shot on film and developed the old-fashioned way. The pleasing impression is of a younger generation of artists who — like some of their muttonchop-sporting, banjo-strumming Gen Y peers — delight in things antiquated and authentic.
John Paul Floyd is a prime example, printing his own silver gelatin photographs. As if that weren't salt of the earth enough, he also creates the images' handsome wooden frames that reaffirm the works' Thoreau-mantic tone. Presentation thus becomes as crucial as the content of these almost reverent, nature-as-church images. A fan of boulder climbing, Floyd's black-and-white photos document a quirky variety of the mega-rocks he's encountered (heart- and whale-shaped), and he delivers them alongside images of rivers and between tree lines as in his image "New Growth."
Artist Nikita Gale proves an exception to Double Vision's atmospheric old-timeyness. Gale's conceptual, digital works juxtapose vintage magazine ads with photos of tragedy, such as the Hindenburg disaster or Abu Ghraib. Gale's willingness to engage with ideas and think about how imagery is complicated by context is a positive. But her button pushing can tiptoe into bad taste, as with a print ad for Dixie Peach Hairdressing. The ad's slogan — "a beautiful head of hair is never an accident" — is placed behind the infamous image of Jacqueline Kennedy crawling across the presidential limo to retrieve a fragment of her husband's skull.
Some of the show's best work has a shared narrative strain, linking disparate images together into tableaux that tell a story or set a mood. Hilary Staff offers a poetic troika of C-prints connected by the idea of yearning, whether ivy crawling defiantly up a concrete wall or a hand reaching out toward the horizon. There's a similarly lovely drowsy quality to Amy Yochum's four hazy images of fireworks entitled "Quixotic." Also steeped in atmosphere, Morgan Kendall's romantic-gothic titles such as "The Harmony of Us" and "Your Kiss is a Shallow Grave" nicely set the stage for her scenes of flower-flocked meadows and girls sprawled out in the grass. They have the look of gently psychedelic '70s rock albums.
The artists in Double Vision don't aim for too much by way of statement, but privilege a feeling, a fleeting experience. And sometimes, that can be enough.