Time Out New York / Feb 19–25, 2009

Alison Brady

In her second solo exhibition, Alison Brady unveils a body of photographs characterized by an eerie surrealism that, while undeniably punchy, feels superficial. Described (tautologically?) as a treatise on “conventionalism perverted,” her lush color prints depict female figures in a variety of mostly domestic settings, sporting bizarre appurtenances. One typical subject, wearing a busily patterned dress while seated stiffly against a purple wall, hides her face beneath a suffocating mask of flowers. The image harks back to René Magritte and evokes performance artist and fashion freak Leigh Bowery’s costume designs. But while the image hints at an interest in gender roles and the snare of the stereotype, it fails to transcend the immediate provocation of its mild visual oddity.

Also on display are a series of portraits that trade on the formal intensity of Hans Holbein (as Catherine Opie did in her mid-’90s shots depicting members of West Coast S&M communities). They show individual men and women in Elizabethan dress, but with the twist of having their mouths overflow with spaghetti. Again, the eccentric addition elicits an immediate jolt, but the incongruity seems purposeless: Brady’s mild subversion of painterly tradition winds up being a gratuitous exercise in surprise. The works’ smooth technical finish, far from detracting from this conceptual deficiency, only brings it into sharper focus. The final impression offered by “An Uncertain Nature” is of an art pitched more at art directors than art fans.

Image: Alison Brady, Untitled, 2008