Critics’ Picks

Travis Kent, Spheres, 2009, color photograph, 8 1/2 x 11".

Travis Kent, Spheres, 2009, color photograph, 8 1/2 x 11".


Travis Kent

301 East 33rd Street #7
January 31–February 21, 2010

Travis Kent’s recent photographs in “Hope You’re Well,” his first solo exhibition, are devoid of irony. Though many of the images approach cliché––the back of a head against a pristine rainbow, a hipster couple kissing in the trash-laden kitchen of a house party, a crocodile in a murky swamp––the artist has avoided the critical distance necessary to qualify his photographs as aloof commentaries on his subjects.

What is ironic, however, is that Kent achieves such earnestness through the spontaneity of his approach. Each photograph is a carefully composed snapshot. This may at first seem like a contradiction––snapshots are by definition made without forethought, taken in the moment to reflect the unself-consciousness of the subject, as well as of the photographer––but Kent has chosen his compositions carefully. When something interests him visually, he takes only one picture of it, often with a simple handheld camera. The photographs in this show represent a collection of imprints of lived experience for the artist, amassed over about a year.

Though his images are sincere, they are not without humor. Spheres, 2009, offers a store shelf of crystal balls arranged and tagged with prices. This composition of potential objects for some personal spirituality, arranged by size and color for easy consumption, should work to deflate the crystals’ uniqueness. Instead, it seems that only the owner of one of these objects can impart its value. The cliché in the exhibition’s title works in the same way: How many times have we said “Hope you’re well” when we have had nothing more creative to say? It is up to the speaker and the audience to maintain the vitality of such a phrase.