In the catalog notes for the “Red” group exhibition at Happy Gallery, curator Nicole Denton points to William Eggleston’s 1973 photograph “The Red Ceiling” as an important touchstone. The photograph, an ominous shot of a bulb suspended in a blood-red room, is celebrated as a watershed moment for the acceptance of color photography into the realm of fine art. The photo’s menacing simplicity is the key to its power: “It is so powerful that, in fact, I’ve never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction,” Eggleston once said.
That same powerful simplicity animates the work in “Red.” From the gallery’s red-painted floors to the varied works on display, the show takes the almost impossibly broad theme of “red” and fashions it into a conversation on what shades our perception of the color, from passion and lust to violence and destruction.
The exhibition features work from over forty artists across multiple mediums, from risograph to video sculpture to fabric work. The concept arose out of Denton’s previous experience putting on literature events, where she’d collect pieces and organize them into themed zines.
Denton says that the works she chose exist in conversation with one another, and that cohesion becomes clear the longer one spends in the space. There’s an array of works focusing on masks and eyes, including Caroline McAuliffe’s “Raut Hetta” and George Porteus’ “Histories Part II” that, when viewed in succession, suggest a deconstruction of the human face, a surfacing of the muscles and blood that surge underneath. Red’s historical gender connotations are also foregrounded, with works focusing on the feminine form in all its presentations, from painted nudes to photo portraits to prayer candles for Red Riding Hood. And while there are obvious ties to danger and destruction, pieces like Anwar Mahdi’s “The Castration of Adam” and Kacie Lees’ “Vital Fluid” find restorative possibility in fire as natural balm, blood as healing serum. (Justin Kamp)
“Red” is on view at Happy Gallery, 902 North California, through August 6