Critics’ Picks

Exhibition view.

Exhibition view.

San Francisco

Tracey Snelling

Mission 17
2111 Mission Street
April 8–May 14, 2005

The act of constructing fantasy worlds, as a photographic practice, makes sense now: It is a satisfying strategy for taking some control of a world that has seemingly run amok. Tracey Snelling is firmly ensconced in the crafty act of creating hobby-shop sculptures of buildings and then photographing them in real-world settings, blurring distinctions between the constructed and the real. Her terrain is a brand of noir: dusty fleabag hotels, tenements, and roadside attractions—usually populated by people who look like they’re on the lam. At Mission 17 she includes a cluster of aging high-rise apartments, a well-stocked mini mart, a revival tent, and a motel sign that, though of course smaller than actual size, still towers above us. Snelling's photographs, large-scale chromogenic prints, are moody, color-rich affairs that add allure to seediness. But unlike sculptor/photographers Thomas Demand or James Casebere, Snelling allows her viewers the pleasures of seeing her constructed subjects themselves, and they often pulse with blinking faux neon signs, soundtracks, and peep-show video vignettes visible through tiny windows. Endearingly free of hit-you-over-the-head theoretical impulses, Snelling offers irresistible narrative possibilities and the universal appeal of cinematic illusion.