New York

Lisa Kereszi

The photographs in Lisa Kereszi’s series “New York Stories” (2000–2004) present a captivating vision of the city’s grand if sordid mystique. Focusing on abandoned and nostalgic settings in Coney Island, Governors Island, and Times Square, they illustrate fantastical, haunted, and fragile aspects of our culture. In Girls, Show World Center, Times Square, NYC, 2000, the seamy glow of strip-joint neon is reflected in the small mirrored tiles that form a concentric-square motif on the club’s dropped ceiling. In this acrid close-up, the chintzy decor is interrupted by electrical wiring and a sprinkler head. Here, as elsewhere in her oeuvre, Kereszi focuses on moments at which the bleak realities of desire, utility, and economy visibly outpace the dreamy deceptions of market novelty. Penetrating the glitz of commerce, she reflects on the intersection of private self and public illusion.

Pointing out Kereszi’s awareness of her own implication in this often-fraught relationship are what might be called her trompe l’oeil photographs—images that initially appear to be paintings. The affecting Chalkboard. Mrs. Luz’s Classroom, P.S. 26, Building 711, Governors Island, NY, 2003, a quasi-abstract close-up taken in the abandoned institution of the title, is one of these, as are the photographs of murals, Trash Can, Broadway Arcade, Times Square, NYC and Ferris Wheel Mural, Broadway Arcade, Times Square, NYC (both 2004). In the latter, mist-shrouded buildings tower above the clouds in the idyllic mural that occupies most of the image. This grandeur contrasts starkly with the photo’s lower portion, in which a dented rubber trash can, a black handle sticking anomalously out of it, stands on a scarred concrete floor. An orange extension cord hangs from the top of the photo and forms a tangle on the ground, as if linking the daydream of heaven depicted on the wall to a sadder reality.

Such crucial symbolic elements, which are elevated through juxtaposition into emblems of transcendence, emphasize Kereszi’s talent for descrying and depicting “random” scenes so strikingly composed that one wonders at first whether she has arranged them herself. It soon becomes clear, however, that she simply has an eye for fortuitous connections hidden in plain sight. This talent for using the camera as a tool in the exploration of the heightened instant is one that she shares with Jodie Vinceta Jacobson, who exhibited concurrently with her in Yancey Richardson’s back gallery. Allowing the synchronicities and contradictions presented by liminal space to pour into the rest of our lives, Kereszi guides us through our own lost moments.

Tom Breidenbach