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Review: Matthew Stone and Asger Carlsen at the V1 gallery

by Carl Frederik Waage Beck on april 19, 2010

Now is the time for all you fine art photography buffs to swing by the V1 Gallery in Copenhagens very own MEPA district – Kødbyen.
V1 is hosting a joint exhibition of works by two up and coming artists that both have an eye for the human form.

As the press material states, Matthew Stone is such a promising artist that The Sunday Times has named him the most influential British artist under 30. Norman Rosenthal – famed curator and organiser of the controversial “Sensation” exhibit at the Royal Academy – has compared Stone to a young Hirst.
In short, Stone is not your everyday amateur photographer.

Asger Carlsen is not a stranger at the V1 gallery. Although the Dane works and lives in New York City, he has guested the V1 six times in the past five years. I guess that’s what you call an in-house artist.

Carlsen contributes “Wrong” – a series of doctored photos that at first glance look like the everyday snapshots we all manage to catch on the holiday to Rome or at grandmas birthday. The point of entry for Carlsen seems to be to make the viewer question reality. Are things really what they seem? Carlsen creates morphed images that depict people with duplicate faces, an MC rider with wooden legs and beachscapes inhabited by huge styrofoam blobs.

Many of the photos inspire laughs and smiles, some are plain ugly and for some I think V1’s introducing text puts it accurately by using the phrase “I wish I could Un-see this”.

In my opinion Carlsens theme has been tested thoroughly before, and I am not incredibly shaken by the idea that someone possibly tries to sell me something or manipulate me everytime I open a magazine. A number of television and viral ad campaigns spring to mind already, just think of Carlsbergs ping pong penguins and you get the picture.
As far as contemporary relevancy goes, this is a bit 2005-ish.

I have to give Carlsen credit for his photshop skills and choice of motif. I can’t tell whether he decides beforehand and has a composition in mind or just sorts through his archive of snapshots and picks out which ones to work on.
I suspect it’s a little bit of both. Especially the works of people with wooden legs look preconcieved and must have been created by repeated shots at the same location and then a bunch of layer masking in photoshop.

Bottom line: Carlsens photos are interesting and funny. they inspire a moment of contemplation, but the concept
gets old fast, and I quickly wonder if the dog knows other tricks.
A few photos have a nice aesthetics about them, but the majority make me want to vomit. But if you’re into weird, then there’s plenty to indulge in here.

Whereas Carlsen doctors the surreal, Matthew Stone focuses on human reality – close up.
His photoseries “Bodylanguage” hides nothing as it explores the human shape. Stone molds landscapes by twisting his models in every which way. Most of his photos are set in a controlled lighting environment with clear reference to Man Ray and Mapplethorpe. In that respect there is not much new under the sun – or clothes.

Some of the more interesting works are photos set in a gridlike frame. These cubicle shaped grids are displayed on the floor and create a 3rd dimension that is interesting for a subject like photography. This effect is mirrored in the cropping of some of the wall hung photos. These create a 3rd dimension in itself, and the resulting cubes appear as though they had different photos on each side.

I find Stones’ landscapes intrinsically interesting – hypnotic in fact. They have a visual quality about them that sucks the viewer in. Details abound. The sharpness and resolution forces me to look closer and inspect every little goosebump on the thighs of these naked bodies.

Are naked bodies relevant in 2010? The controversy issue must be dead by now, but Stones bodyscapes invoke emotions and a sense of curiosity that can never be irrelevant. As far as aesthetics go – Stone’s got me hooked.

The exhibition closes May 1st. Opening hours: Wednesday-Friday: 12-18. Saturday: 12-16.

Enjoy!

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