by Federico Nessi, FIX gallery, 811 E Burnside, #113, through July 31st
In his new installation at FIX gallery, 1730 SW 22nd Ave, recent PNCA grad Federico Nessi attempts to recreate an apartment building courtyard. Through a series of photographs inlayed in light boxes, he creates "windows" into the private settings and scenarios of the apartment's tenants. Unfortunately, envisioning Nessi's courtyard requires a fairly generous mental leap on the part of viewers, considering that FIX's cramped quarters double as a boutique retail space.
The photographs themselves are visually lavish. Posed in meticulously staged interiors, Nessi's subjects are frozen in highly stylized lives in which their salacious activities are reflected in the rich, saturated reds that seethe beneath each image. The colors come to stand for the longing and unconsummated desire that permeates each of Nessi's portraits of alienation. Every resident at 1730 SW 22nd Ave is engaged in some desperate (and utterly futile) pursuit of connection: A young man stares at a male nude on his PC's browser, while images of blonde swimsuit pin-ups decorate the walls; a weary woman leans into a bedside table as she watches a contented gay couple sleeping; and another woman peers from behind a bookcase at a man reading a book marked "Secrets" as he buries his face in the pair of her underwear he's clutching.
But for all the visual information that Nessi packs into these photographs, the emotional wallop is woefully under-whelming. The "taboos" documented here--from internet porn to prescription drugs and lots of voyeurism--feel as tidy and safe as the pristine interiors the apartment's tenants inhabit. Even the subjects--almost invariably white, young, and easy-to-look-at--force the photographs to speak in a kind of emotional monotone. And it may be that Nessi may be aware of this and is purposefully muting the evocative force of his scenarios through a presentation that is intentionally superficial and as calculated as catalog layouts. But even if his work is intending to comment on the flattening effect that representing the desire and complexity of his subjects' lives entails, the end result for the viewer is, essentially: So what?