New York

Hank Stromberg

Foto Gallery

Trying to pinpoint when it is that a gimmick takes over. Hank Stromberg’s earlier photographic work includes such iconoclastic gestures as leaving a trail of photographic cockroaches behind on a tour of the White House or posting Mr. Subways contest announcements on the trains, much to the MTA’s consternation. In his current show the gesture is subdued. A View of My Grandmother’s Place. Cutout black-and-white photos of the objects which adorn the walls of a home cluster on the gallery walls. The pots and pans, the worn utensils of a kitchen, a housecoat, an apron, an old-fashioned radio. One loses a sense of perspective scale as the items are separated from their environment; rearrayed, flat, isolated, against another wall. The back of a skillet becomes hand-size, as small as a nearby mug. A game in which one plays the photo against reality? A similar pun to Stromberg’s insertion of trompe l’oeil photos of light switches in the MoMA? But there is something else. The living room with its picture of flamingos, its china-dog heads, the photos of framed photographs. The robe, the towel, the hot water bottle of the bathroom. Or the outmoded dress hanging in the bedroom. Is it strange that I think of Eugene Atget’s photographs: the broom left by the doorstep suggesting a human presence absent on the empty street. For Stromberg’s grandmother pervades his show. Her taste, the objects she chooses, uses. And one becomes less interested in the distortions and tricks of the medium than in the portrait of a woman implied.

Susan Heinemann