Ricco / Maresca Gallery
529 West 20th Street
December 1 - January 14
Opposite the entrance to this photography-focused exhibition are six portraits from nearly a century ago, each attributed to an “American Unidentified.” A kitschy print of two white male baseball players, standing before a painted-green background (Baseball Players, ca. 1920s), neighbors a portrait of an African American soldier posing before a similarly cool-hued, airbrushed backdrop (Soldier, ca. 1920s). Beneath him is a collage of flower-seed packets sandwiched between black-and-white photos of a woman and a man, contributing to the work’s enigmatic nature.
This theme of unknown identity takes a break in the center room. A series of five poolside photos of Marilyn Monroe by Weegee—“Untitled (M Monroe),” ca. 1952–53—clearly depicts the star, but some of the images have her legs disproportionately stretched. In another, her head is duplicated eightfold into a sunflower-like shape in place of her torso, juxtaposing the actress’s classic beauty with surreal grotesquerie. On the same wall is an unattributed work, this one a woven tapestry based on a popular propaganda image of Mao Zedong playing ping-pong, taken by his personal photographer Lü Houmin.
The exhibition ends with a portrait by an anonymous American artist, installed within a small black enclave near the middle room, titled Man in Box, ca. 1960s. The obscurity of the bearded subject’s identity is doubled by the blurred glass vitrine in which he stands cross-legged with a cane. Is he trapped, or merely protecting himself from the strange, distorted world outside? His nonchalant pose suggests the latter.