New York

Anne Frye

55 Mercer Street

Anne Frye’s exhibition of black-and-white photoworks is as discontinuous as a comic’s monologue. It’s as if she’s still thrashing around for a style. In three series, she does a Baldessarian label-covering act with a ball of twine. Covering implies revealing, and since Frye doesn’t caption her work, this deliberate denial of a graphic motif throws her back entirely on her images. But more, it’s coy pandering: she’s denying us information we already know. Three other series exploit the darkroom accident of the bleached print. The progression of the image toward white reveals the lines and masses of black that structure it. This is a simple attenuation of single image photography, just dragging the image through three tonal changes to show how it was composed.

Frye needs a human subject to achieve affect. Three of her photoworks deal deadpan with woman’s burden. In one, the unsmiling artist confronts us with tousled braids. In the two succeeding images, first one, then the other braid is redone. A nine-panel work presents the heads and shoulders of three women of different ethnic extractions in changing poses. An Anglo-American is dressed in shirt and sweater, an Indian wears a black sweater, and a European a soft floral pattern blouse. In addition to her inelegant clothes, the American is stuck with the most awkward and unbalanced pose. The largest of Frye’s pieces is a wall size multiphoto narrative of two men playing out a poker hand. It is astonishing how little body language goes on during the course of this surely tense exchange. The basis of the exchange, it seems, lies in speech and glance, clues that Frye’s camera doesn’t pick up. By trying to carry out such a narrative, showing what this mode can’t reveal, Frye produces a curiously evacuated and literal work.

Alan Moore