As part of his project to create a hundred photo-works “depicting” the maritime history of the late-twentieth century, John Neff offers us a newspaper collage on glass-plate negatives of May 18, 1987, when Iraq launched a missile attack on the U.S.S. Stark in the Persian Gulf, and a miniature blue-toned print of the gaping hull of the U.S.S. Cole, which was bombed by al-Qaeda in Yemen in 2000. The Stark incident was ironic, since the U.S. was at that time supporting Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, and Hussein quickly apologized for the “accident.” Neff’s collage is packed with visual and textual power, with sharp white violent cuts breaking up and ripping apart fragments of the New York Times articles and photos surrounding a ghastly listing Stark with truncated stories and pictures about the affair, and some unrelated news, including lottery numbers, that undercuts the headline story’s significance. The effect is a sense of grisly absurdity worthy of Joseph Heller or one of Neff’s favorites, Don DeLillo. Neff’s maritime photo-works upstage his dark cyanotypes of a vulnerable nude male bather, which are suffused with the gentler absurdity of tenderness. (Michael Weinstein)
Through June 28 at Western Exhibitions, 1821 West Hubbard, (312)307-4685.