Critics’ Picks

Stephen Waddell, Wrestlers, 2010, color photograph, 96 x 119”.

Stephen Waddell, Wrestlers, 2010, color photograph, 96 x 119”.

Vancouver

Stephen Waddell

Monte Clark Gallery
525 Great Northern Way #105
November 4–December 4, 2010

Stephen Waddell’s current exhibition, comprising seven pictures, examines the complexities of the photographic gaze. The most notable work, Wrestlers, 2010, presents an intricate series of sightlines. Measuring 96 by 119 inches, Wrestlers could very well be the only photograph of its size ever produced entirely by hand. In this work, a crowd of spectators in front of the Altes Museum in Berlin watches a Mongolian wresting match (in an allusion to Henri-Cartier Bresson’s Wrestlers on Independence Day, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 1958). The two figures in the right-hand corner of the foreground observe the wrestlers locked in combat, while the wrestlers look away from one another, the camera, and the crowd. The two spectators in the foreground appear just larger than life, but the middle ground, which includes the crowd and the wrestlers, was developed at a lifelike size, so that the scale of the photograph is bifurcated. Many of Waddell’s pictures consider the medium of photography; Wrestlers is the most successful of these in both content and execution.

The other six images further explore Waddell’s photographic interests. While six of the seven photographs depict a human subject, only one of those figures––in Man in Green Mask, 2009––looks in the direction of the camera. In Kurfurstendam 225, 2009, a woman leans against a doorway, looking to the right of the frame. As if by negation, in this work, much like in Wrestlers, one is reminded of the way in which a viewer is implicated in the photograph. This subtle self-reflexivity makes the images seem unconcerned with anything but their own pictorial logic, yet their complexity makes them all the more contemporary.