The San Francisco gallery Casemore Kirkeby is currently exhibiting the work of ten fresh, inspiring artists who graduated from Yale’s MFA program in photography this spring. The show includes over 50 works and is ripe with absorbing and unexpected imagery.
The medium of photography is often used to distort our expectations and perceptions. The exhibition, titled “Doublespeak,” explores the importance of artifice, truth, deception, and duplicity; the artists in the show push and pull the theme in striking ways. One shot, “Book and Snake” by Matthew Leifheit, depicts a set of men and women arranged on a set of stairs. All of them wear professional clothing, and they face away from the viewer, towards a black door embedded in the side of a classical-style building. What are they hoping to enter? As viewers, we bring our own set of expectations to an image like this—the massive, traditional columns and heavy staircase indicate government or bureaucracy, so perhaps they are waiting to gain admission to some closed-door session. And yet, the severe lighting and the specific postures of the subjects implies a constructed image. Even the choice to have the group face away from us, the audience, is initially surprising—we are used to seeing formal arrangements like this presented to us directly, as in a company photo or graduation snapshot.
While some images, like Leifheit’s, are more ambiguous, many of the photographs in the show feel specifically contemporary, of our current moment. After all, they were created during a uniquely charged period in American history—a time defined by its tumult and conflicting ideologies.
Take the image “Trump Tower Interior No. 5.” The artist, named Res, offers an image of a porous, wet-looking orange marble fountain overflowing with unnatural green water. The water (if it can be called that—it is a putrid green color that brings to mind stagnant ponds and chemical colorants) splashes over the edge of its stone container, uncontrollably spattering the entire frame. So, too, has Donald Trump’s presidency run amok. The image does not reflect a flattering perception of America’s incumbent president.
All in all, the photographs included in this exhibition reflect novel and innovative perspectives on the photographic medium. It is well worth a visit if you find yourself in San Francisco between now and late September. If that’s too much of a trek, you’ll find the ten photographers’ websites below. We encourage you to discover more about their work!
Editors’ note: “Doublespeak” is on view at Casemore Kirkeby gallery in San Francisco until September 23, 2017.