Gretchen Huppel

Atlanta Contemporary

In Gretchen Hupfel’s recent black-and-white photographs, horrifying things are happening to airplanes: One plows into the side of a building; another crashlands on a factory roof; still another is about to collide with an enormous needlelike structure. The photographs’ laconic titles evoke an expert’s shorthand evaluations of the black-box tapes from these accidents: Spatial Disorientation (pilot error, induced); Touchdown (premature); Wind Shear (unforeseeable) (all works 2000). But the events in the photographs turn out to be fictional. With broad (if somewhat dark) humor, Hupfel photographs perfectly functioning, normally flying airplanes from angles that make disaster seem imminent. The joke is so obvious it’s almost undetectable: We know so well that photographs can lie that we immediately assume we’re not seeing what we’re seeing, that such an image is simply an optical illusion.

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