Note to self: I shouldn’t read galleries’ press releases. I know, they’re written for a purpose, and that purpose is not to entice this blogger to come and visit the show, but still… I almost didn’t go to see Simen Johan’s Until the Kingdom Comes at Yossi Milo Gallery (on view until October 31, 2009). That would have been a tremendous shame since it turned out to be the benchmark contemporary photography show for this new season. Granted, I had a pretty bad cold the week I was in New York, and I thus had to reduce my schedule quite a bit, missing quite a few shows and openings (plus forgetting about installation shots - sorry!) - but regardless, this is the show that others will have to top right now.
Until the Kingdom Comes consists of a number of rather large prints (plus a sculpture or two) of, well, animals in what appear to be natural settings. These settings, however, upon closer inspection don’t appear to be that natural at all. What makes the show such a success is the fact that, on the surface, the images look rather mundane, but once the viewer is in their presence, they unfold something that is hard to define. And there is the key: When you go to see the images, you actually are in their presence - there is an experience to be had that goes beyond the usual “looking at some images on a white wall”. That, of course, is what an artist strives for: For (in this case) his images to create this unique experience, for the images to go way beyond whatever concept might have existed before the first image came into being.
At no stage do you wonder “Are these animals real or stuffed?”, because it doesn’t matter. Until the Kingdom Comes is not an exercise in creating clever images. So the press release’s insistence on them being created “merging traditional photographic techniques with digital methods, […] crafted over time” not only states the obvious, it also makes it sound as if you’d want to see this show because of the way the images were created, whereas, in fact, that’s the last thing you should - or actually: will - care about.
The sculpture part of the show left me a bit coolish, but since I almost never look at sculpture, that doesn’t mean much. What I did like, though, was how the sculpture worked with the space in the gallery. Just one thing: I wish they had invested in anti-reflective glass for the frames. That little detail aside, here’s a must-see show.