Critics’ Picks

Deana Lawson, Barbara and Mother, 2017, pigment print, 69 x 55".

Deana Lawson, Barbara and Mother, 2017, pigment print, 69 x 55".

New York

Deana Lawson

Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
530 West 22nd Street
March 1–April 2, 2018

Across ten majestic photographs, Deana Lawson pursues a mood of staged portraiture that pushes into the candid elegance of the everyday. In the spirit of collaboration, these works are caught somewhere between the direction of the artist and the resolve of her subjects, playing on modes of fiction that merge with authenticity. For this show, Lawson extends her practice of photographing existing domestic environments by exhibiting appropriated images—scanned, printed, and scaled up—alongside her own work. In the found picture Kings, 2016, nine young black men are posed against the gridded lights of a painted cityscape. The snapshot cuts across a quintet of heads—the seam where Lawson folded the original image, which she carried in her journal for three years.

Lawson’s interventions in the domestic spaces she photographs go almost unseen. Yet her touch is everywhere: in a broken, floral-faced clock that belonged to her aunt Lois or a glinting pair of seagull decorations that belong to Lawson herself. Gilded frames lend a splendor to the artist’s frank portraits. The wistful woman of Eternity, 2017, for instance, is transformed into a figure of regal beauty, surrounded by lilac hues. And we are grounded by the woman in Barbara and Mother, 2017, who bares her prosthetic leg without shame. Her daughter stands behind her, grinning, mimicking mom’s pose. Photographed in Brooklyn, South Carolina, Jamaica, and South Africa, these portraits are connected by a palpable intimacy, a kinship played out in the shared biographies that Lawson constructs.