Monday, May 25, 2015

Zhao Zhao: Constellations II at Chambers Fine Art

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The term highbrow isn’t used much anymore but the term used to indicate someone of immense intelligence with the highest cultural standards. The English novelist Alan Patrick Herbert once quipped, “A highbrow is the type of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.” Zhao Zhao, a Chinese artist from Beijing, does something even more impressively imaginative than deriving Picasso from a sausage: after an auto accident in which his head slammed into his windshield, he was amazed by the patterns of cracked glass emanating from the point of impact. Indeed, this led to his series of hyper-realistic paintings called “Constellations” based on bullet impacts into panes of shatter-proof glass (which reminded the artist of interstellar galaxies).

Some folks interpret Zhao’s work in political terms. So in this case, in Zhao’s work, glass can represent something restrictive – as in a glass ceiling or a form of transparency working, in reality, as a means to inhibit movement or progress to an area perceived but inaccessible. The bullet holes help to show the power, strength and resilience of this transparent or invisible force. Even riddled with bullet holes the glass remains intact. Repeated, forceful, aggressive and even violent effort is often fruitless to eliminate the types of resistance (an outward political/social/economic resistance or perhaps an inner psychological resistance) that the glass can represent. The artist therefore might seem to question the efficacy of violence or aggression as a means of removing obstacles, calling for a more creative, clever and pacifistic/humane approach.

One could also say that until an act of force is directed at glass, the existence of the material is not readily perceived. So, thinking in political terms that apply to contemporary America, most of us did not perceive what now appears to have been a lingering and festering problem with inner city police departments and inner city residents. This problem was, to a certain extent, transparent or invisible to American society given the lack of real journalism in America. It took violence in Ferguson and Baltimore and aggression against the force of police corruption and governmental apathy to make the nature of this ‘window’ apparent. And, even with numerous impacts into this window, we still hear of police abuse around the country regularly.

To me the bullet impacts represent a type of helplessness we can feel ex post facto in regard to our more aggressive or violent emotions. Aggression ‘naturally’ follows a sense of frustration or pain. The psychologist Leonard Berkowitz showed that people who are in physical pain are much more likely to react violently to even slightly irritable situations. Given frustration or pain we are predisposed to act aggressively and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of this type of response system. Looking at the bullet holes is like looking at the results of our anger and outrage after the fact, regretting that we could not prevent our actions, hoping in the future greater restraint or an ability to overcome this ‘natural’ type of response might be possible.

Finally, I love the idea of the artist shooting bullets into glass to create constellations of star clusters or whatever astronomers call that stuff. It recalls the pessimism of the Gnostics or Manicheans who viewed the universe as something created by an evil god and dropped into the lap of a good god. We live in a universe of decay and competition for survival. According to astronomers the universe resulted from a ‘bang’ leading to a violent and uncontrollable expansion which will be infinite even after all energy in the system is expended. Theology tells us the universe was created by a good god for a purpose – but what if the universe was a horrible mistake and we, as the Gnostics believed, are prisoners of and in this universe and, indeed, in our own bodies? Glass then represents a flawless system of perfection corrupted through violence into a creative form, generating a universe dominated by the Second Law of Thermodynamics in lieu of an orderly Newtonian watch-maker.

Everybody seems to be going to the Kusama “Obliteration Room” on 19th street. Drop by Chambers before hand – it’s right across the street. It would be a shame to miss Zhao Zhao’s amazing show (and the Obliteration Room kind of sucks anyway - to tell you the truth - although Kusama’s paintings are worth seeing).

Zhao Zhao: Constellations II
Chambers Fine Art
522 W. 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

Artists of the WPA at Bill Hodges Gallery

{{{Norman Lewis - click on images to enlarge}}}

At the height of the economic depression following the 1929 stock market crash, President Herbert Hoover gave a radio broadcast to uplift the spirits of America. He said that 25% of Americans were unemployed. People were hungry, some starving. Farmers were losing their farms to banks, people were living in dire poverty and as President of the USA, he could help…but he wasn’t going to. If he put food in the mouth of a starving person that person would become dependent on government handouts and Hoover would not allow the beautiful system of rugged American individuals taking care of themselves to go down the drain just because a few million people might die in the streets.

His message wasn’t very convincing nor uplifting and FDR became the next president. It’s debatable as to whether the New Deal pulled Americans out of the Depression, but it certainly stopped Americans from dying in the streets.  One of the more inspired initiatives of the Roosevelt administration during this period of time was the Works Progress Administration. One of the wonderful aspects of the WPA was that despite the undercurrent of racism and discrimination and lack of opportunities for African Americans in the USA at the time, many African American artists were given opportunities to create and make a living from their art through the WPA.

{{{Jacob Lawrence}}}

Bill Hodges brings together a group show of mostly African American artists who created for the WTA. Indeed, it’s an all-star cast and reinforces my steady claim that this gallery is a jewel in the crown of the Chelsea art scene, in what I consider to be the best building to see art in Chelsea – 529 W. 20th street.The show not only highlights the diversity of artists who benefitted from the WPA program, but it also helps to highlight the changes that each artist went through before, during and after the WPA  opportunity and how social change in America over the years either affected or didn’t affect the themes of individual artists and why. 

Will Barnet, for example, arrived in New York City during the Depression and was ‘radicalized’ by the experience. He began with a style and content based on social realism and later dabbled with various other approaches including “Indian Space” painting, a type of abstraction based on Native American art, using organic shapes and lacking any semblance of perspective. The painting here is titled Martha and Two Cats and displays a style far from his social realism days. The two cats could be, I am guessing, of the “Russian Blue” breed – a hyper intelligent type of cat which is very shy around strangers, or maybe of the “Chartreux” breed - an ancient breed from France perhaps brought to Europe from the Crusades. The cats become symbols of status and comfort through their exoticism and plumpness. If Barnet had painted something like this in the 30s, however, it might have been perceived as social satire or criticism of the leisured, privileged class. But in the mid-80s enough social safety and welfare programs had been created to the point that even the poor seemed to have nice stuff in America and an ideology of upward mobility had trickled down throughout all classes. An artist did not need to worry about portraying the wealthy in his work in a negative light. “Wealth,” in itself, was not necessarily to be condemned in that decade of Reaganomics as it might have been during the FDR years.

You may not know that Romare Bearden had a degree in education and worked for the City of New York as a social worker. In fact, many African American artists in the first chunk of the 20th Century had jobs in helping professions out of necessity, since it was so difficult for their work to be sold. Bearden was committed to his community on many different levels and his daily engagement with the social life around him added immense depth to his work. Under the Waterfall is another of Bearden’s famous collage (montage) works. Many of Bearden’s collages present ‘archetypal’ human forms in his attempt to equate the African American experience to larger themes in world culture and mythology. In this piece we see a figure bent backwards through the force of the water pounding onto him/her. The body is not in flight, but in a position to absorb the experience in what one might interpret as a deliberate attempt to engage the adverse aspects of the world directly in hopes of a greater insight into how one may live in and change these aspects of the world. The fragmented background adds to the feeling of a piercing, excruciating experience with the body at the limit of endurance in an almost shamanic ritual of enduring pain to gain visions.

Elizabeth Catlett overtly used her art as a way to express her social awareness and to protest what she could clearly see to be wrong in her society. She not only protested through art but was arrested periodically for her participation in literal protests. Indeed, in 1946 the US government accorded her a type of honor, perhaps, by declaring her an ‘undesirable alien’ while she was in Mexico and she was prevented from entering her homeland for a decade.  Before that she had experienced various forms of discrimination such as an acceptance to a university followed by a revocation upon the discovery of her race and the inability to live in a campus dorm at another university for the same reason.  Despite the irrational hatred directed against her, however, her art always seems to be a positive statement. The piece Rebozo refers to a traditional Mexican garment worn by women of the working class or women from rural villages. The rebozo served various functions – for instance one could use it to carry objects or to carry a baby. Frida Kahlo painted herself in a rebozo to represent her solidarity with the working women of Mexico.  In this piece we see a woman in a rebozo who could be engaged in prayer or her folded tense hands can be a sign of concern – the implication to me is that she is offering a prayer for better conditions in general brought about through her own experience of pain.

In the work by Charles Sebree that we see here, we can see how African Americans were open to influences from Europe and how these influences were appropriated to reflect American themes. When I saw this Christ with Thorns, Rouault immediately came to mind, but this seems to be a softer rendering than Rouault was used to doing. Furthermore, this is a Jesus who does not betray the sometimes mawkish expressions of some of Rouault’s work as this Jesus does not suffer physical pain and is almost like an icon of a darker skinned Jesus. The implication could be that the African American experience in America has been, to a great extent, “messianic” and long-suffering. There is a hope implied that the suffering will be redemptive and that the African American community may be more capable of initiating positive change due to its horrific experiences and that greater humanity may someday envelope this country through a greater acceptance of the African American people and their insights. This a patient and serene Jesus who has faith that humanity will ultimately prevail.

Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Frederick D. Jones, Milton Avery, and Charles Alston are also included in this amazing show.     

Artists of the WPA
April 16 – June 6, 2015
Bill Hodges Gallery
529 W. 20th Street, 2E
New York, NY 10011

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

'hysterics' - Videos by Jeamin Cha at Doosan Gallery New York City

“Pain makes people raise questions, and those who raise questions become hysteric.” Jeamin Cha

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Doosan Gallery is, like many Chelsea galleries, pretty liberal with its free wine on Thursday openings, but on April 16, 2015 there was no wine and the mood was somber. It was the first anniversary of the Sewol tragedy – when a ship overturned off the coast of Korea killing over 300 people, mostly Korean school children. Indeed, on that day of the opening thousands of Koreans took to the streets in Seoul in protest over their perception that justice was not done in regard to the reckless killing of these children. The crew, many of whom acted cowardly, were punished harshly, but the perception to many seems to be that many of the folks who profited from the dangerous illegal construction that put lives in danger to make a few extra bucks, and who, through their callous greed, truly caused the ship to capsize, are or will all be free and clear within a short time.

The mood was appropriate for Jeamin Cha’s current show at Doosan – hysterics – comprised of installation pieces and videos. The show covers, in part, the theme of how injustice can eat away at those who are victimized by it due to their acceptance of the pervading belief in every civilized society that justice and fairness are basic human rights. To discover that, despite the rhetoric, justice can and often is easily or casually subverted leads to intense inner crisis for those involved as victims. The centerpiece of the show, for me, is the 9 minute video titled “Autodidact” about Hur Young-chun. In 1984 he learned that his son had died in the South Korean military and he was told that his son had committed suicide. Yet, the details he learned of the story just didn’t add up. This occurred during the military dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan, who, among other things, seemed responsible for the May 18, 1980 slaughter of students and citizens in Gwangju and who attempted to kill Kim Dae-jung, who would become a future democratically elected Korean president and Nobel Peace Prize winner (in an act of true mercy and forgiveness, Kim would later pardon Chun).

Unable to accept what he felt might be a lie told to him by the Chun Doo-hwan government, Hur taught himself forensic medicine to investigate all of the evidence himself in order to determine exactly what probably had happened to his child. His conclusions, based on the principles of forensic science, are that his son was murdered. Yet, knowing and demonstrating the truth does not necessarily lead to justice. The ruling of suicide was overturned under a more liberal government, but then reversed back to suicide later. Toward the end of this year there will be, apparently, another hearing concerning this matter.  Mr. Hur has thus been pursuing this matter now for over 30 years in what might be considered to be a modern day pursuit of redress tantamount, due to the extreme measures pursued, to that of Michael Kohlhaas in the Kleist short-story, but done within the system, with a father desperately hoping that justice will suddenly appear where it has simply not seemed to appear before. The video shows a father who is driven by his belief in justice in the midst of corruption, his contempt for injustice and his commitment to the memory of his dear son.

Every one of the short videos in the gallery is well worth seeing and I am truly sorry I was not able to get this review up sooner. The show apparently will close on Thursday. If you can get there, give yourself an hour or so to move from video to video and read through the wonderful booklet that Doosan has prepared.   

hysterics – Jeamin Cha
Doosan Gallery New York

535 W. 25th Street

The Droste Effect - Paul Kolker at Paul Kolker Gallery

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The Droste Effect refers to an image that contains a smaller image of itself, which, in turn, contains an even smaller image ad infinitum.  It comes from a Dutch company called Droste which used this type of recursive imagery on its boxes of cocoa powder. Basically you had a nurse on the cover of the box of cocoa holding a tray which had a box of cocoa with an image of the nurse holding the box on it and so on.

So does the recursion of an image mean anything or is it just some goofy type of “look at the cool thing I can do” exercise?  Well, visual recursion can be akin to Zeno’s paradoxes. Even when the regressive repetition is lost to our vision, we intuit or understand that the repetition can or must continue infinitely. Just because the eye stops perceiving the regression doesn’t mean the regression stops. Therefore the infinite regression of an image rejects the concept that there must be something which would be ‘the smallest thing’. Infinite visual regression implies that we can go infinitely smaller in space. So even though scientists now believe there is a smallest thing (the quark or the electron), the Droste Effect rejects this reality just as Zeno found logical ways to reject the reality of motion.

Plato loved this type of thing as a way to imply that there was a deeper unperceived perfect reality and that we could not trust our vision of the world to give us this real reality; but most of us would probably say that Zeno shows we should definitely trust our eyes more than our logic. Despite Zeno’s mathematics we know that Achilles can pass a tortoise. We’ve seen stuff like this. It happens. The Droste Effect tells us there should be no smallest particle. So like Zeno’s paradoxes the Droste Effect points to a capacity we have to create beautiful ideal constructs that are confounded by our more compelling sense of the real world - although Plato would have said it’s the other way around and Zeno’s logic confounds our senses. So something like the Droste effect challenges us to ask what makes us believe what we believe. We have the capacity to imagine a world where motion and substance are lies – are they lies?

Kolker has been experimenting with the concept of recursion or iteration since 1978. I first became aware of his work when I stumbled upon some of his light sculptures several years ago in Chelsea. I called them ‘infinity boxes’ in my first review of his work and I’m still not sure how Kolker creates them. Apparently he uses at least one one-way mirror along with a small number of other mirrors and LED message screens. He winds up with a very thin box often mounted on a wall which gives the illusion of an infinitely regressing geometrical pattern.  In one of his shows he had a few of these boxes lying flat so that looking down into one gave one the impression of an infinite tunnel heading straight down. The beauty of these boxes is that when the recursion of the geometrical figures becomes lost to our sight, it is sometimes replaced by a deep blackness so that the infinite appears to transition at some point into a type of void.

For this current show Kolker refers back to the bashert or coincidence or maybe even providence of the origin of his interest in regressive mirror images, in 1978, coinciding with the purchase of a painting by Rowland Holyoake (1835-1889) called La Belle Chocolatiere.  It turns out that this La Belle Chocolatiere was a painting based on a painting by Swiss painter Jean Etienne Liotard (1702-1789) also called La Belle Chocolatiere. It was, in fact, this image which served as the inspiration for the Droste nurse in the famous advertising campaign. So as Kolker was beginning down the road of experimentation with the Droste Effect, he had inadvertently purchased the Droste girl herself, the inspiration for the most commercially famous example of the type of visual recursion he would experiment with for the next few decades.

{{{one of Kolker's boxes - not at current show}}}

So Kolker uses Holyoake’s Droste girl in pieces that also examine the extent to which we can trust our perception of the visual. We see, for instance, many dots and lines – the dots, I am guessing (and I might be wrong), might represent the pixelated nature of the visual image which now constitutes the basis of our construction of social reality, while the lines represent the scan lines that made images on TV possible. For an image to be partially obscured by these dots or lines, to me, means that when viewing the world through our various electronic gadgets we have to be aware of the contrived nature of the images.  Most of our knowledge of the world does not come from direct experience but instead from captured electronic images around which a narrative can be constructed. Electronic dots and waves exist to convince us of narratives.

{{{a Kolker box - not at current show}}}

Viewing the dots and lines represents our capacity to question the veracity of the visual image as well as the narrative around it and to become more aware of how readily we can be manipulated through electronic media into forsaking an investigation of our inner realities and responses for a cheap version of what is promised to be outer reality. Indeed, the Droste girl may have been based on a real German chambermaid, but she became a complete fiction created by the Droste company to present chocolate as a wholesome and healthful drink. So Kolker is not just playing with geometric figures or actual objects or recognizable people, but he begins this latest series with a woman whose image was deliberately altered to sell products.    

Paul Kolker
The Droste Effect
April 23 – July 3 2015
Kolker Gallery
511 W. 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reza Aramesh - "Friday April 25th, 2003 at 7:55am" - at Leila Heller Gallery

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Iranian-born artist Reza Aramesh’s work has not just explored issues of inhumanity, cruelty and suffering (based on images from the popular press), but, to me, has also deeply questioned the extent to which the visual arts have attempted, throughout history, to even acknowledge issues of human suffering. Indeed, in his approach to depicting victims of war he seems to question whether visual art can even adequately address the compelling issues of oppression and horror given the financial basis of the whole field.

Throughout his career Aramesh has regularly taken images from the popular press of individuals who have been captured in war or military occupations and he has ‘decontextualized’ the victims. Basically he removes the victim from the context of his capture – you see the victim alone, in a posture of subjugation, and as the victim is often naked or semi-naked, you are not even aware of the time frame of the capture, abuse and humiliation the prisoner is undergoing. Aramesh also adds a little twist by referencing iconic images of religious suffering in his sculptures. One might be reminded of Bernini, Velasquez, Caravaggio, Reni et al. as one looks at Aramesh’s pieces. He has also employed actors in the past to create types of tableau vivant of prisoners suffering and has staged these ‘actions’ in various highly respected art institutions.

This artist is aware of the fact, obviously, that the only suffering that was depicted in the art of the great masters of the Renaissance and Baroque eras was the suffering of Jesus, martyrs, souls in hell or mythological figures (like Marsyas or Proserpina).  Suffering due to military conflict or social oppression seems utterly absent from the visual arts until after the French Revolution. Even after the French Revolution, when artists could choose their own subject matter, they had to rely on what might sell in the marketplace, and suffering doesn’t tend to sell. Aramesh therefore references the stylized suffering depicted by the great masters in subtle ways in his Action series, where contemporary images of cruelty are blended with previous artistic depictions of ‘noble’ and higher suffering – more commercial suffering.

So when, in art history, we see Jesus or a saint suffering, the goal is not to engender a sense of outrage or fellow feeling. The goal is to instill admiration or veneration for the ‘other’ morally superior person who refused compromise and who made a sacrifice for you, one you’ll never be expected to make. The suffering is often stylized and even sexy.  Mishima, the 20th century Japanese writer, discovered his latent homosexuality when he saw a copy of Guido Reni’s Saint Sebastian. Mishima admits in an autobiographical work that he had an involuntary orgasm upon seeing this piece which has often been said to harbor a deeper sexual meaning.  The history of art has not encouraged us to connect with victims of torture and abuse but to masturbate to them. We become Casanova and the Marquis de Sade watching the execution of Robert-Fran├žois Damiens from our hotel terraces. Unless you stylize and sexualize suffering, it is unsellable. The suffering depicted by the old masters is revealed to be absurd or ridiculous in light of Aramesh’s works, where the victims are not suffering for us, but are just hapless, random victims chosen to be objects of rage and ideological or racial hatred. 

An implication of Aramesh’s work could, therefore, be that artists who choose to buck the market and depict social suffering, basically, have to reject the history of art. So the real value of Aramesh’s work, in my opinion, is that he wants us to move beyond veneration, pity and compassion. He wants us to move beyond viewing those who suffer as ‘others’ and to attempt a deeper connection and examination of how we respond emotionally to a helpless victim. How has art taught us to engage suffering? Allegorically.  Art has trained us to accept suffering as a noble calling, not reject suffering as a form of brutal abuse by militarily stronger nations.

In his show at Leila Heller Gallery, Aramesh makes his usual figure of submission more abstract although the figure in the kneeling position is still removed from all context. By removing the context for the submissive posture we are directly engaged by someone in this position – engaged by the position itself.  By doing this Reza removes any possible legal or military justification for the position. We are engaged in a type of disgust and sympathy for the individual who has been compelled to endure this situation. With no context there is no justification and we become aware of a process whereby human degradation stands alone as categorically morally wrong. It’s as if Reza rejects the explanations and the lack of context gives the pieces greater power. Context subsumes direct engagement – it forces one to tell a story of what’s happening, which leads to a sense of moral justification or condemnation. Instead of an excuse or indictment of war, we are brought closer to the experience of suffering and the vulnerable humanity of the victims. But, without context, there is also no perceivable way to relieve the suffering which is perceived.

Of course, an irony is that a figure in a posture of submission becomes quickly allegorized as well. He is like Lucky from Godot. He is the inner aspect of our nature we expect to be dominant and liberating but which is inexplicably subjugated to the irrational, aggressive and malicious. Indeed, I think Aramesh might be trying to present his prisoner figures in a more symbolic or allegorical light in this show as we often just see a silhouette of the suffering prisoner, often filled in with found images and objects. Included in the show are porcelain pieces representing bundles of clothes representing the process of stripping prisoners naked as part of the process of breaking them psychologically. The title of the show comes from the fact that on Friday April 25, 2003 at 7:05AM, two Norwegian journalists witnessed American soldiers leading 4 naked Iraqi men through the city of Bagdad simply as an exercise in dominance and humiliation. It was, basically, Pozzo and Lucky in literal form. Yet, here again, in the presentation of discarded clothing, we see a reference to Christian suffering – in the 10th station of the Catholic Via Dolorosa Christ is stripped of his clothing. The difference is that we are not as distant from the Iraqis stripped of their clothing as we are from Christ.  

Reza Aramesh
April 23 – May 23, 2015
Leila Heller Gallery
568 W. 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jeenah Moon: Photos from Contemporary Burma (SoAM Studio)

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Although journalists from around the world covered Tiananmen Square extensively in 1989, the brutal massacre of students in Burma, in 1988, was largely ignored by the international press. Pro-democracy protests from March through September 1988 were continually crushed by the Burmese military under Ne Win, the dictator of the country, killing thousands. Indeed, many Burmese students were tortured to death by their government. Ne Win has never fully been entered into the ranks of the buffoonishly cruel dictators of modern history, although he certainly seems to deserve this distinction. He's right up there, apparently, with Idi Amin, Pol Pot and Kim Jong Il. After all, Ne Win is the 'leader' who based the economic policy of Burma on his personal astrology chart. Having been told that the number 9 was his lucky number, he summarily eliminated all currency not bearing the number 9 or adding to 9, and thus wiped out personal savings, bankrupting the country.

Jeenah Moon's recent photos from Burma come from around the Inle Lake region, an area of self-sufficient farmers and fishermen. She told me that she chose this area because it reminded her of photos of her own home country from the 1950s - when South Korea was one of the poorest nations of the world. 

On the one hand, the photos seem to show people who perhaps have had little contact with the government and who, perhaps, have not been affected, either positively or negatively, by the policies of the junta. The people do not seem to be dying in the streets and seem to have adjusted to a lifestyle of simplicity. In fact, I think this is the key to grasping the basic truths of these images. We see a kind of timeless Burma in the photos. The residents around Inle Lake are Buddhist and live in bamboo huts. It's an image of people who have lived in this area for generations and who will live here for generations, away from the political turmoil of the big Burmese cities. 

On the other hand we do see hints of economic deprivation, wire thin men, a hungry dog, dilapidated buildings. These are the folks the junta just doesn't seem to care or worry about. They can be left alone to their own devices and they'll find a way to survive just as their ancestors did.Burma has long been one of the richest of Asian countries in terms of natural resources, with the poorest people in the world. This is Burma's legacy due to the military junta still in power. Although the junta has supposedly relaxed some of its crazier policies, which caused Burma to become isolated in the world, it seems as if the current reforms are smoke and mirrors to draw international investment and further line the pockets of the military. There are massive human rights abuses in the country and reports of slavery still existing there (over 350,000 slaves as of 2013). Little of the wealth is filtering down to the poor, but this does not seem to be stopping foreign investment, since there's plenty of money to be made from this country, especially money from fossil fuels.

So I liked these images because Moon isn't trying to make an overt political statement. If you didn't know anything about Burma you might even think these are quaint images of happy people and might even want to spend some time away from the city in such a place. One might envy these people for their acceptance of their circumstances. Yet, knowing the history of this unfortunate country, from the time of exploitation by the English through to the current exploitation by foreign oil companies, one is forced to judge whether these conditions are as quaint and humane as they could be. What are we to think of these villagers? Are they victims? Are they totally neutral in the history of conflict in Burma? Have they been neglected by their government? Do we have a responsibility toward them?

Frankly, the current military government of Burma wants to encourage tourism and much of the slave labor apparently being used is to create a better infrastructure for tourists. Moon shows that in a dictatorship you may not see people falling over in the streets from starvation. You may not even be able to see forms of exploitation overtly. The people may even appear to be happy, since, unfortunately, it seems to be in our human nature to make the best of the worst situations. 

But Moon's photos certainly do not seem to show the progress and change that a country as rich as Burma should be showing. She seems to be challenging the viewer to look behind the smiles and satisfaction of the self-sufficient farmers and ask whether this is a situation that, in reality, the civilized world should be satisfied with.

Note: The show is ending tonight, but if you are interested in purchasing prints of the photos, please drop me a line and I'll get in touch with Jeenah or the studio. I think the photographic prints are going for quite affordable prices.