Chris Gentile at Jeff Bailey Gallery

 Chris Gentile  Let It Down , Installation View, 2011

Chris Gentile Let It Down, Installation View, 2011

Jeff Bailey Gallery in New York is currently hosting Let It Down, an exhibition of new photographs by Chris Gentile. Gentile’s photographs predominantly feature sculptural pieces that he creates for the sole purpose of photographing them, and while this show includes some like this, the most attention-grabbing work—and indeed the centerpiece—is Limerence Network. The work is composed of  approximately two hundred photographs of Gentile’s friends and family photographed from behind, referencing the resistance and reformation of traditional portraiture in cyber social networking. The idea isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but the presentation is striking – the photographs are presented on a large table, each sitting in what looks like a custom-made frame. They are positioned very close together and angled toward one back corner of the gallery, creating an installation that can/should only be viewed while standing in front of the table and looking in the same direction as the photographs’ subjects. With Limerence Network, we get a real-time taste of Gentile’s expertise in sculpture and installation without the flattening-by-photography that is often a necessary component of his works.

I say necessary because many of Gentile’s works just can’t exist as sculpture  – they are temporary – and the act of photographing is what keeps them alive. On/Shit Out of Luck is one of those works. It features a large wood sculpture in the shape of a hand making a peace sign, embellished with lit candles and dripping with wax. Another, the Eminent Digression series, existed as an environmental installation/performance in the artist’s studio. Gentile painted the surfaces of the studio light blue, removing any personal materials and installing shelving and other fixtures. He then hosted a party, encouraging his guests to leave their empty bottles on the shelves. The subjects of the works occupy some other space and time and the photographs serve them, functioning as fixed, silent gateways.

Other works don’t need to exist as photographs, and probably shouldn’t. Here’s To Forgetting shows three knotty hunks of wood, carved with the title’s declaration. The sculpture itself is rather unexciting, and is made even more so by taking a picture of it. Maybe if it were present we’d at least feel some response to the weight or the texture or the bizarrely polished lettering, but here we just have a boring picture. A: Jesus, Mary and Joseph and B: Jesus, Mary and Joseph are two more that lose something by not being around. I think I could like these two, with the pin holes and smudgy paint, but the photos feel lame and self-aware. These types of works should be exhibited in their original forms. In doing so, some of the distance between the viewer and Gentile’s other photographed sculptures might be closed through interplay with dimensionality.

Chris Gentile: Let It Down

Jeff Bailey Gallery
New York, NY
February 9 – March 12, 2011
 Chris Gentile  On/Shit Out of Luck , C-Print, 2010, 71″ x 53″

Chris Gentile On/Shit Out of Luck, C-Print, 2010, 71″ x 53″

 Chris Gentile  Eminent Digressions, V , C-Print, 2011, 18″ x 28″

Chris Gentile Eminent Digressions, V, C-Print, 2011, 18″ x 28″

 Chris Gentile  B: Jesus, Mary and Joseph , C-Print, 2010, 16″ x 17″

Chris Gentile B: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, C-Print, 2010, 16″ x 17″

 Chris Gentile  Here’s To Forgetting , C-Print, 2010, 38.5″ x 60″

Chris Gentile Here’s To Forgetting, C-Print, 2010, 38.5″ x 60″

Meredith Hudson