Kashya Hildebrand Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of a new body of work by Jeffrey Aaronson.
Jeffrey Aaronson’s latest series of photographs explores the age-old issue of identity in an intriguingly 21st-century way. After finding written descriptions in online personals profiles—specifically those who posted advertisements without photos—Aaronson sought out those subjects whose words intrigued him and askedthem to sit for his camera. Before the official shoot, each read his or her posting aloud into a tape recorder, expressing self-revelations, romantic yearnings, and desired qualities in a potential mate.
The upshot is a multi-dimensional form of portraiture, a genre which has been with us since ancient times and has always sought to present subjects according to the esthetics of the day. The intent might be a warts-and-all realism, as in Roman portraiture, or the soft-focus flattery of artists as diverse as Gainsborough and Renoir. But contemporary technology, in Aaronson’s hands, makes possible a more layered experience. Visitors to this show can ponder the aural quality of the subjects’ postings, consider the content, and match those aspects with the photographs (one young woman, for instance, described herself as “scary and damaged”—you can judge for yourself if the various elements of her personality fit the print of her on the wall).
Photographic portraiture, which has been around since the invention of the camera in the early 19th century, has its own traditions, beginning with the stiff Daguerreotypes and studio shots of artists like Nadar and continuing up to the present day with the autobiographical disclosures of Nan Goldin or the fanciful deconstructions of Cindy Sherman. Aaronson uses a custom-made, 20-by-24-inch field camera fitted with a Polaroid back that bridges this history and is a curious marriage of 19th-century technology and up-to-the minute production: the Polaroid film for this project results in larger-than-life, 20-by-24-inch prints which are then reproduced as 30-by-40-inch Digital Chromogenic Prints. And the installation as a whole asks some searching questions about who we are in the age of rampant online information-sharing: How do we construct a personality? What are we looking for in ourselves and others? And ultimately how do others see us and judge us?
Ann Landi is a contributing editor of ARTnews and the author of The Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art