Critics’ Picks

Chris S in Los Angeles, 2003.

Chris S in Los Angeles, 2003.

Los Angeles

William Jones

Golinko Kordansky Gallery

February 27–April 10, 2004

In an ongoing series of richly printed black-and-white photographs, William Jones explores a self-organized “movement” of mostly Latino Southern California kids enthralled by Morrissey and the Smiths. More than a mere fashion appropriation, the parallels between '80s Manchester and postmillennial SoCal suggest a complex cultural transposition that is not entirely linear: The words “VIVA” and “HATE” tattooed across one kid’s knuckles refer to his own Latin roots as much as to the Smiths song “Viva/Hate.” Seemingly casual, the photos reveal acute observation. In Handsome Devils, 2003, three young men with pompadours guard their fragile machismo; one keeps a sly, wary eye on the photographer. “Unhappy Birthday,” Hollywood, 2003, captures a crowd unified in unguarded excitement, but one individual catches Jones in the act, training his own camera on the photographer. As in the best documentary work, the unseen photographer becomes a curious presence: Shadowing Smiths tribute band the Sweet and Tender Hooligans, Jones acts as the invisible center of a loosely knit group of subjects, moving from objective distance as an observer to empathic proximity as a friend. In Chris S in Los Angeles, 2003, the most affecting of these images, Chris sits on his bed, wearing a Morrissey T-shirt and surrounded by posters of the singer and of James Dean (who inspired the Manchester kids twenty years ago). He clutches a pillow, staring openly into the camera, letting Jones inside the invisible center of his world.