New York

Frank Majore

Josh Baer Gallery

In Frank Majore’s new photographs, women’s faces veiled by TV scan lines peer out from behind jittery patterns of light suggesting hand-held shots of traffic at night. The light scrawls read as both “modernist,” in their free-form calligraphy, their seeming record of the chance waverings of an unsteady camera, and high tech, like the jagged line of an EKG. It’s interesting that the free-form line, once synonymous with spontaneous experimentation, has come to seem decorative, even campy.

For Majore this work represents a big shift. His earlier images mimicked the pictorial strategies of advertising, which aim to show the product to seductive effect. Majore would present martinis or lipsticks floating in front of increasingly baroque patterns of light. Now he’s dropped the foreground product and made the spectacular light show the focus of the pictures. In the earlier work, the patterns of light, suggesting romantic dizziness at the sensuous pleasure of material goods, served to highlight the advertised products. Now Majore evokes this tipsiness for its own sake.

The new work suggests the self-consciously decorative lighting of sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner, where atmosphere is all, and the woman’s face seems about to speak in the cool, neutral intonations of an electronic mail system: “You may now enter your caller ID.” These pictures luxuriate in the qualities of light and color that the Cibachrome print process affords. Majore’s panoply of effects—sharp and soft focus, beaded beams of light, and floating discs of color suggesting the reflection of a dance-hall mirror-ball—are not simply used for their allusions to particular media stereotypes, but for their own sake. Majore’s once specific appropriations are diffused in a murk of media noise. The images that result are arch, acutely self-conscious, and linked to the communally resonant images of the mass media, but in a nonspecific way. As such, Majore’s pictures suggest an almost mythic dimension in their reflection of the shared dreams of the media audience. What they offer in the end are the vivid effects and emotional tautologies of spectacle.

Charles Hagen