Critics’ Picks

Annette Kelm, Soles, LOL!, C U SOON, XO, STUFF 2 DO, 2013, C-print, 31 1/4 x 24 1/2".

New York

Annette Kelm

Andrew Kreps Gallery
537/535 W 22nd Street
September 12 - November 2

A pair of floral espadrilles leans against a lurid tie-dye backdrop printed with common chat phrases in Espadrilles, U R MY BFF, LOL!, HOW R U? (all works 2013). Here, Annette Kelm has deregulated the relationship between subject and background: The frenzied wallpaper spans toward the viewer’s eyes as the studio lighting flattens any defining shadows on the shoes. This visual maneuvering evinces Kelm’s larger strategy—applying the flimsy yet powerful neoliberal trope of individual freedom to her own photographic method. Kelm moves between disparate techniques and subjects with flaneur-like nonchalance to the effect that her subjects become signs without signifiers.

In Shetland Ponies, Knokke-Heist, Kelm turns to landscape photography, showing the namesake animals gathering near a pond in northwestern Belgium. The print’s faded greens and high grain give the work a painterly serenity, but combined with the scene’s foggy backdrop also flatten any traditional sense of depth. Contrasting this pastoral setting is Vitrine for the History of Women’s Movement in the Federal Republic of Germany, German Historical Museum, Berlin, a photograph of a museum arrangement displaying feminist ephemera and lilac-dyed overalls. Here, Kelm has positioned the camera indoors, toward a glass encasement of socially historic materials and the lens’s own reflection. The shadowy presence of Kelm’s photographic apparatus recalls Eugène Atget’s Paris or Zoe Leonard’s New York. But Kelm’s gesture stops short of the others’ nostalgic homages as her institutional milieu adds a sterile, administrative air.

Percent for Art boldly homes in on the percentage sign, such a fixture of recent grassroots protests that its signifier has become its’ own catchphrase (the 1 percent!). With its serial repetition across six separate red backgrounds, the denotative figure appears as an attractive logo, but for no apparent brand. Instead, one sees an accumulation of drained signifiers—reaffirming Kelm’s free-floating photographic method as a powerful dissociative force.