Critics’ Picks

Bryson Rand, Paul (Brooklyn), 2015, archival pigment print, 40 x 28".

New York

Bryson Rand

La MaMa Galleria
47 Great Jones Street
April 13 - May 13

The history of twentieth-century straight photography is sprinkled with the work of queer makers—think of Herbert List, or Peter Hujar. But if the tradition has grown to look a bit staid by its black-and-white aesthetics and formal idealism, an undercurrent of transgression, Bryson Rand suggests, can revitalize it. The artist expands upon this notion in his current exhibition, which consists of images ranging from a portrait of a handsome, wounded man (Vincent [Brooklyn], 2016) to a semiabstracted shot of dead flowers in front of his husband’s parents’ house (Untitled [Rumson, NJ], 2016).

Behind a wall at the back of the gallery hangs a row of smaller, more sexually explicit images, like an exclusive little orgy being guarded from the timid, or the uninvited. Unlike Robert Mapplethorpe, another member of the canon Rand inserts himself into, he isn’t afraid to include blurs or depict his subjects in natural, asymmetrical compositions. The artist trades airless, rigid classicism for a more vivid record of sensuality and community.

The most striking photo, Paul (Brooklyn), 2015, exudes a sense of quiet yet glorious fantasy. We see a man sitting in the grass, perhaps in a cozy backyard, barely veiled by a mist of spilling water. The liquid beads glitter like stardust, evoking visions of old-school Hollywood glamour. This seemingly candid document feels marvelously abundant—it has so much loveliness to share, so much affection to give.