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Blog: Inspiration Between the Lines

Roe Ethridge: Sanctuary 2 at Andrew Kreps Gallery

Commercial and art photographer Roe Ethridge inhabits a pictorial space that lies somewhere between the physicality of objects and human beings, and the superficial sheen of branding and American plasticity. With careers as an artist and commercial photographer running parallel, his images for corporate clients and high fashion brands—Goldman Sachs, Balenciaga and Kenzo, to name a few— coexist alongside recognition as a fine art photographer jumpstarted by worldwide exposure in the 2008 Whitney Biennial.

Roe Ethridge, Oslo Grace at Willets Point, 2019, Dye sublimation print on aluminum, 51 x 40 in (129.5 x 101.6 cm), Edition of 5, with 2 APs. Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

Considering this, it’s no surprise that to some extent, his art practice is a comment on his commercial work; most notably through the re-purposing of appropriated images and symbols that have often had prior lives in public consciousness as commercial or news imagery. 

Roe Ethridge, Penn and Wet Butt, 2019, Dye sublimation print on aluminum, 32 x 24 in (81.3 x 61 cm), Edition of 5, with 2 APs. Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

On a walkthrough of the exhibition Roe Ethridge: Sanctuary 2, currently at Andrew Kreps Gallery, this dialogue between two cultural spaces—art and consumption—offers an unsteady narrative through a juxtaposition of ideas and imagery. A happy, non-threatening and attractive young woman in a pink outfit with a welcoming smile sits on an orange mat on top of a muddy parking lot by Citi Field in Queens, New York. An entrance to the stadium looms in the background, while a dirty puddle of water in the middle ground frames the woman’s head in the foreground. Billboards advertising soda, sneakers and gambling stretch across the top portion of the frame, alongside two huge images of New York Mets players. Baseball, America’s pastime, is somehow implicated in a seedy underbelly, while a beautiful girl sells us her sparkling smile.

Roe Ethridge, Copperheads on Newport Plain Talk, 2019, Dye sublimation print on aluminum, 40 x 50 in (101.6 x 127 cm), Edition of 5, with 2 APs. Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

Ethridge’s narratives are destabilizing if you have any sort of naive fondness for a perceived purity of the American Dream. A dirty Penn tennis ball sits as the focal point of another image. Although exhibition text says it references iconic photographer, Irving Penn, in the context of the rest of the work, one has to wonder if it’s not also a comment on the elite, historical privilege of the tennis set. The remains of a cigarette alongside bruised, aged, and muddied lonely petals from a flower fill out the remainder of the frame, creating a snarky still life. 

Roe Ethridge, Verrazano Bridge, 2019, Dye sublimation print on aluminum, 44 x 33 in (111.8 x 83.8 cm); framed: 45 1/16 x 34 1/16 x 2 in (114.5 x 86.5 x 5.1 cm), Edition of 5, with 2 APs. Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York. 

One of Etheridge’s images offers a moment of respite from what appears to be an ongoing critique of the surface nature of a life revolving around commodities, whether objects, ideas or models. The photograph, of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in the distance as a bird flies through the center of the frame on what appears to be a brisk, quiet and grey day, is a meditation on the pleasures of the priceless.

Roe Ethridge: Sanctuary 2 at Andrew Kreps Gallery | 22 Cortlandt Alley is on view through November 2, 2019.

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