Identity Crisis shines

Identity Crisis shines

Identity Crisis shines at Johnson Museum

By Christopher J. Harrington


Identity Crisis: Reflections on Public and Private Life in Contemporary Javanese Photography, Johnson Museum of Art, Through June 11, 2017  

Compared to other artistic mediums, the mirror of transcendence for photography is far more nuanced. The crossing into a purposeful resonance takes deep resolve and a certain fearlessness. With the advent of Smartphones, photography has become society’s bloated and gross form of fast-food identity. Click, shoot, exist. Bludgeoned with commercialism, it can be hard for Western culture to appreciate artistic grace. It’s not necessarily technique and education that’s missing, it’s more about what people don’t have the time for anymore: the hidden attributes of existence. Good photography catches this.

That’s why Johnson Museum’s exhibition Identity Crisis: Reflections on Public and Private Life in Contemporary Javanese Photography is such a breath of fresh air. It’s guest curated by local photographer and artist Brian Arnold, and the totality of it is simmering with good taste and crystal fluidity. Part of what makes the show so illuminating is the relationship between the history of photography in Java, Indonesia, and the exhibit’s overall desire to express a sort of contemporary relevance. The artists included all want to be hip like Wolfgang Tillmans and Cindy Sherman, but for reasons completely different than their Western counterparts.

Because fine art photography is a relatively new concept in Java (compared to the West), the artists in the show can’t help but create work that is urgent and true. There’s less of a learning curve for them, and this is good thing. Dito Yuwono’s’ three inkjet prints titled Naked, are intensely unswerving, a daring confidence emanates from their glow. The photographs were all made in single shots and each contains an X-ray taken during one of the artist’s medical exams. Yuwono has suffered from medical issues most of his life, and these prints are a sort of release and interstellar bottling of the artist’s true identity. It’s brave and authentic—the colors lush and grotesque.

Deden Hendan Durahman’s Prespectivum Up and Prespectivum Down are surreal and intrepid, the two large prints imposing and nightmarish. There’s beauty hidden in between, as the two human forms are morphed digitally and contemplated cyber kinetically. Here, the artist composes a treatise on the physicality of the computer age and the effect it has the human body. The forms in the prints represent the stretching and pulling of a new identity; Jack Kirby would be proud.



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