Critics’ Picks

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, W, May 2008, #15, color photograph, 39 x 49".

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, W, May 2008, #15, color photograph, 39 x 49".

New York

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street
525 & 533 West 19th Street
February 10–March 5, 2011

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, well known for his staged photographs that depict friends, family, and strangers in ambiguous mise-en-scènes, returns to this gallery with “Eleven,” a suite of fashion images culled from the eleven projects he created for W magazine between 1997 and 2008. Without gleaning this information from the press release, one could be forgiven for not thinking them “commercial” photos at all. The works recall those in his previous shows, which have mined the gray areas between street and directed images and between the personal and the public, generating a sort of hybrid form of “straight” photography influenced by the chromatic saturations of William Eggleston.

What unifies these works, some of which feature overlapping or recurring “characters,” is a sense of enclosure and surveillance, which makes it seem like we are glancing into hidden worlds, and the subjects—many of them walled off in glass houses—seem to know as much. These scenes in turn feel incredibly, even unsettlingly, familiar, as if we’ve stumbled into an old film or a family photo album. Cindy Sherman, of course, has explored similar terrain in her output, often inserting herself as the object of consumption. But in Sherman’s work, the artist points to the instability of both human identity and the tropes by which we construct our world. By contrast, diCorcia’s images feel hyperreal given the matte flatness of the printing process as it is juxtaposed with his selective focus on objects and figures in unexpected sections of the frame: flowers on a coffee table, a man’s reflection in an outside window, an Asian businessman’s knowing look. The total effect is not one of deconstructive estrangement, however, but genuine uncanniness.

After circling the capacious Zwirner gallery, one feels as if one knows the characters in the images, having caught them at a moment of unexpected insouciance or vulnerability. For this reason alone, “Eleven” makes a compelling case for the generative possibilities found as the lines between fashion and art become inexorably blurred.