Time Out New York / Jun 24–30, 2010

Valerie Belin

Valérie Belin’s flawlessly presented, large-scale matte and high-gloss photographs have the airless quality that is so often the result of technical perfection. This sleek veneer isn’t in itself a bad thing, but it would be generous to argue that the artist has used the style to its best advantage here. In two of the gallery’s back rooms, Belin shows entries from a few different series, all inarguably well produced, but none especially memorable. Two luridly colored images of elaborate fruit baskets face off across the first space, accompanied by a shot of an expressionless, green-eyed showgirl. In the second space, three black-and-white studies of the same individual, wearing a range of costumes, are teamed with a single large, shadowy print of a flower arrangement.

The too-immaculate quality of Belin’s works suggests a commentary on artifice and representation, but the theme is not, in this selection at least, explored with great vigor or originality. The fruit baskets are drawn from a set of “responses” to Manet still lifes, created for a show at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, but divorced from their original curatorial context, they communicate little aside from a certain sickly lushness. The floral tableau and portraits suffer from a similar conceptual isolation, both a little too alienating for their own good.

Belin delves about as deeply into her subjects’ formal characteristics as her chosen material and methods permit (of concurrent shows, only Thomas Struth at Marian Goodman Gallery trumps them for hyperreal precision), but unfortunately she leaves their associative potential largely untouched.

Image: Valerie Belin, Untitled #070101, 2010