Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ben Gest's "Commissure" at the Contemporary Museum

From City Paper:  A couple stands over a shiny wooden counter preparing parts of a meal in the photograph titled “Ben and Dawn.” Ben is looking down at the lump of hamburger meat in his hands, which hovers above a plate that sits at an impossible angle on the countertop. The inconsistent perspective makes the meat look foreign, nauseating. Dawn stands close to Ben chopping vegetables. In her right hand she holds the knife to the side of the diced pieces; her left arm extends an inordinate length, making her appear lopsided, and her left hand lays awkwardly on the cutting board. With a vacant expression on her face, Dawn doesn’t appear present in the activity. Her hair is unfixed, and falls over her left eye. Her dress is brightly patterned, and she isn’t wearing makeup. Ben and Dawn look like they might be getting ready to entertain, but they express no pleasure or excitement. And at its large scale—45 inches by 40 inches—this otherwise ordinary scene becomes uncomfortable, the figures trapped in the close-cropped composition.
The images in Commissure, Chicago-trained photographer Ben Gest’s solo exhibition of digital portraits, are pieced together and manipulated from multiple images of the same subject. In some cases, hundreds of photos are combined to make the final image. As in mannerist paintings, scale, perspective, and focus change slightly across the portraits’ compositions. Body parts are subtly elongated, an extended arm is disproportionately long, a floor appears vertical. The distortions are meant to call attention to the psychological unease and physical discomfort of familial relationships and day-to-day interactions, but they are not particularly jarring and in some cases barely noticeable. The process for creating these works is careful, meticulous, and precise, but the imagery remains cold and often bland.... READ COMPLETE REVIEW HERE