Los Angeles

Anne Collier

Marc Foxx Gallery

I find it easier to deal with work wherein the subtleties are defined by clues as to the artist’s attitude (what Thomas McEvilley has called “attitudinal gestures”) rather than conveying some kind of mood. It doesn’t matter whether the attitude in a work is genuine, as long as attitude is evinced; audiences can consider attitude without being caught up in it. Mood, on the other hand, is more tricky. Mood is something the artist has to get the audience to slip into, and efforts to prompt such engagement usually leave traces of posturing or spin into narcissistic drama. And even if an artist can get you past feeling set up and instead just feeling alone with the mood to try it on for a while, there’s another problem. The more successful the artist is in drawing you into a mood, the more likely that you’ll be wearing that mood even after you’ve left the gallery.

Anne Collier’s photos (all 2002) immediately suggest an attitudinal bent—a fascination with the ways metaphor, irony, and implication can be prodded out of everyday occurrences. Her desire to capture these events puts her in the company of many photographers: Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, as well as Wolfgang Tillmans, Sam Taylor- Wood, Richard Billingham, and even Jeff Wall. But I go back to the idea that mood is difficult to handle: Collier is set apart by her ability to engage art in this other vein.

Collier has a knack for picturing a middle ground of emotion. Her works refer to fear, anger, despair, guilt, hope, joy, love—but all are kept in check. In fact, the aforementioned emotions are literally packaged in one image of labeled self-help audiotapes, which Collier has photographed still in their carrying case. Equally deadpan pictures show a videotape labeled LOSE WEIGHT; a timeworn head shot of Barry Manilow overlaid with doodles suggesting that his effigy has variously been on the receiving end of puppy love and contempt; and a tabletop scattered with pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that, were it assembled, would add up to a reproduction of Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, 1952. The riff on Pollock and the play of splattered/scattered might come off as merely irritating, but Collier’s handling manages to suppress the snickers with a more nuanced sense of coming together and breaking apart. Similarly, Collier’s photograph of people standing in line at the San Francisco MoMA elicits a chuckle from those who recognize the architecture or read the title revealing that these usual suspects are waiting to get into the Yoko Ono retrospective. But there is also an odd pitting of anticipation and boredom, of pent-up energy and sleepiness, which the image shares with another photo, of youths waiting in line for a Slayer concert.

If anything, Collier’s images fall on the side of a melancholy that, married to her wary eye toward promise, potential, or satisfaction, is powerful. Two views of window displays at a family-portrait studio, for example, seem so joyful that they must surely mask disappointment or dysfunction. A shot of a young woman (the artist) sitting in a completely empty Dodgers Stadium reveals solitude, and perhaps loneliness, and pits anonymity against singularity while raising questions about place, timing, and transience. The image is neither placid nor rough, much like another pair of images (titled Jim and Lynda, after the artist’s late parents) offering mirror views of an open sea. I can’t help but appreciate these photos for their commingling of attitude and a mood that, when here, though difficult to define, seems astutely captured. I was pleased to try on the mood of Collier’s photos, pleased that she could get me to do it. What I don’t like, though it is a testament to the work, is that I’m still wearing the mood.

Christopher Miles