New York

Frank Young

55 Mercer

On the floor of the Frank Young exhibition are dozens of books each with hundreds of pages of a single photographic portrait. If we accept for a moment Andy Warhol’s contention that “you can’t take a bad (or therefore a good) photograph,” this picture is as good as any in creation. But what, then, is remarkable about any single photograph if every photograph is equally truthful—and therefore equally beautiful? Young seems to be saying it’s that a photograph can be reproduced ad infinitum.

The repetition like a broken record of one instant of time that Young’s photos represent makes an interesting comment on our tendency to regard a photograph as a unique record of an artistic idea like a drawing or a painting. Hundreds of prints of the same picture put a sort of inflationary pressure on that picture’s value, not only as art but as the documentary equivalent of a particular instant in time and space. Flipping through these books—which could produce an illusion of motion like a. primitive cartoon but doesn’t—emphasizes the images’ redundancy and throws into relief our own sense of passing time.

On the wall is a row of yellow and black photographs of what look like the heads of wedding-cake grooms. Each head is distinguished by a smooth or wrinkled texture—even though they are all from the same mold—and by the inaccuracy of the application of dots of paint to the eyes, mouth and hair. The heads are given startled or quizzical or introspective expressions by the clumsy painting recalling similar effects in Warhol’s silkscreen portraits caused by clumsy registration. Here the particular conditions obtaining at the time each head was made are preserved in the heads’ “personalities,” while the relentless repetition of a single instant that the books represent shows how photography can make a mockery of our sense of the sovereignty of a moment of time.

Ross Skoggard