You might never have heard of the Sigur Ros effect. I’m not talking about what that music does to you but rather to something else: When Sigur Ros’ first album came out I couldn’t get enough of it (I’m exaggerating slightly, but I did listen to it for a while). It was quite different, it was inventive, it was fresh, and it had an appeal not easily found somewhere else. But then they had their second album out, which sounded just like the first. And the third (ditto). I started wondering why I should even bother listening to the new stuff when, in fact, it sounded just like the old one. It was more or less the same music - that I actually liked - over and over again, and I just grew tired of it. So I was a bit disappointed when I walked into the Silverstein Gallery to see Todd Hido’s A Road Divided (on view until October 24, 2009), only to get a bit of that Sigur Ros effect.
Mind you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the show (apart from at least one print seeming to have some major technical flaws - given I had a cold the week I went to see the show, my memory might deceive me, but I’m quite certain other people agreed with me) - it’s just that it felt like a deja vu: A lot of very nice images, all a bit moody and depressing, but somehow they didn’t connect with me. I was so confused I grabbed the press statement from the front desk, and it talked of these “recent” photographs, “once again” showing “the American landscape”.
So here’s the thing, if you’ve never seen this work (or its earlier version) you should really go and have a look. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, since, as I wrote above, it might be a bit too somber or moody for some people. But the photography is very well executed, shot through the window of a car, which you only see as smudges of rain that blurs parts of the landscapes. If you let those images work on you, you might find that you start to appreciate them even if your first impression might be “they’re boring”. They’re not at all boring.
If you have seen the earlier work… I’m not so sure. Maybe you won’t experience the Sigur Ros effect. Maybe you will. For me, the experience of seeing this show was similar to seeing the second jpeg show by Thomas Ruff. I thought there should have been a bit more than just another set of basically the same kinds of images.
Update: DLK agree with me about seeing stripes in their review! They also quote from an email from the gallery that claims “Interestingly enough, all banding seen on the images appeared to disappear once the plexi was removed.” Given I cannot re-visit the show easily right now, I will refrain from commenting on this.