New York

Alan Belcher

Josh Baer Gallery

Alan Belcher’s exhibition of photographic portraits of Liberian blacks exists in the name of a noble cause. Part of the money from the sale of the works will be donated to the World Food Programme’s international emergency relief operations. The portraits were made in Monrovia, where Belcher traveled, with United Nations status, to observe the program in action. In other words, the images are premised on grim environmental and sociopolitical circumstances. However, many of the faces shown are smiling, and only a few seem to belong to starving people. The confrontational stares of some of these subjects suggest a nobility of spirit impossible to match; indeed, their glances are like a gauntlet thrown down to the spectator, who can only shrink away in guilt.

So here is the first myth of much recent sociopolitical art: the overtly suffering are more human than the rest of us mere neurotic

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