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John Stezaker.

JOHN STEZAKER

Friedrich Petzel Gallery | New York

A leading figure of the British conceptual art movement in the 1970s and '80s, John Stezaker has been making a comeback while we've been going back to collage over the last several years. For "The Bridge" (through March 28), Stezaker's first exhibition at Friedrich Petzel, he created three new series of collages based on found photographs mostly drawn from 1940s and '50s film stills and tourist books about Prague and its famous castle. Kafka associations aside, the show's title points to collage's ability to achieve both unity and incongruity via different methods of juxtaposition. As with all of Stezaker's work, the result is secondary to questions concerning the process of photographic illusion.

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Culled over 30 years from secondhand bookshops, charity stores, postcard fairs, film memorabilia and websites, these photographs of people, landscapes and architecture might initially seem mundane, but after being sliced diagonally and paired with another, similarly treated image, unexpected coincidences arise. In the 2008 "Film Portrait Collage" series, publicity shots of movie stars are divided between opposing genders, identities or physiognomies only hinted at before. Wedding II couples a temptress with a leading man playing cards, suggesting that stardom is largely a conjuring trick. Likewise, two similarly posed stars are joined awkwardly together in She III, revealing the PR machine's ability to turn different actors into the same basic character type. In He II, a Freud figure unexpectedly bursts from the face of a matinee idol.

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In his 2008 "Castle Series," Stezaker creates spaces that defy gravity and the laws of natural perspective. The Bridge XVIII splits a view of Prague Castle between up and down, real and fabricated, tenant and tourist. The Bridge XII explores architecture as it is normally seen, either at ground level or from the air, leaving us to imagine everything in between. A similar leap or breech of faith is implicated in the artist's 2006 "Film Still Collages," one of which, Untitled II, positions an image of children watching TV between the legs of a woman sitting on the floor. In the end, it is left to the viewer to interpret these seemingly simple compositions. But what stands out is the perversity of the image itself, its way of suspending the opposing forces between the making and unmaking of identities.

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Title Annotation:art exhibit called 'The Bridge' at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York
Author:Owlett, Tricia
Publication:ArtUS
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Sep 22, 2009
Words:388
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