Double Exposure @ Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery
Through June 26,
522 NW 12th Ave.

Pulliam Deffenbaugh made a major photographic splash this month with a portfolio of diptychs by world-renowned artists in a show called Double Exposure (why do people always feel the need to try to throw in cute photography lingo like "focus," "exposure," and "negative" when naming group shows like these?). The works, commissioned by Edition Schellmann in Germany and New York, all hover around the 20x24" range, and offer a fantastic glimpse of some contemporary practices.

The Canadian artist Uta Barth made her name as the "out of focus" photographer who concentrated on atmospherics and subtle light tones. She saved herself from falling into her own cliché by eventually drawing her subjects, however marginal, into focus while retaining her abstract and spatially shallow way of photographing the world. Her untitled diptych here of reflections in a glass wall overlooking a barren cityscape combines the formal elegance of a Robert Mangold painting with the layered disorientation of a Lee Friedlander photograph.

Thomas Demand, who was posed to be a mega-superstar a few years ago, never succeeded in reinventing himself or his technique the way Barth did, and his pictures seem rather passé and obvious. He constructs miniature sets out of cardboard and paper, based on current events. In "Pile (Stapel)," he's photographed all these tiny stacks of paper that refer to the ballot counting in Florida.

The most arresting piece in Double Exposure comes from Vanessa Beecroft, whom I had previously considered one of the most overrated artists working today. "Vogue" depicts two scenes of a man in a business suit posing rigidly next to a powder-white nude woman in a black wig doing a headstand. In the left image, the nude woman faces the camera, in the right she faces away. Looking closely at her face, though, her gender becomes very ambiguous. While she certainly has a woman's body, her face is decidedly masculine and bears a strong resemblance to the stiff businessman beside her. Formally, the duo comprise a perfect yin and yang, or a post-feminist, corporate variation on "American Gothic." CHAS BOWIE

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