Origin of species

By GREG COOK  |  October 18, 2006

Ohwada is a future fabulist, creating mesmerizing kaleidoscopic landscapes through photo and Photoshop tricks. Here he offers a fabulous green garden cave floating in a pond of lily pads. The main structure seems to come from the same image reflected four times, so that it becomes a kaleidoscopic Rorschach test scene. But the more you see of his work, the more it feels merely gimmicky.

Rutherford is another future fabulist, but with hints of Japanese pop artist Mariko Mori. Here a woman in a see-through plastic dress and white platform shoes stands in the middle of a nowhere desert world. It seems like something out of “Barbarella,” or an advertisement for futuristic homemaker bondage cleaning kits.

Most of the work here is formally polished but terribly well behaved. And it’s all curiously similar in tone and style regardless of whether the artists hail from Poland or China or Yale University. Almost everybody works in the deadpan style that sees head-on posed photos of people with blank expressions as somehow revelatory. Everything — feeling in particular — is kept at arm’s length.

The organizers suggest that the artists are reacting to our nervous, precarious historical moment. It’s clear that deadpan is a dominant American (a/k/a New York) photo style, but is it really the universal style of this era, or is this show just a reflection of the curators’ tastes? Let’s hope there’s more variety out there in the hinterlands; otherwise we’re in for a uniformly dour future.

“Jennifer Bartlett: Early Plate Work” | Addison Gallery of American Art | Phillips Academy, 180 Main St, Andover | Though December 10

“ReGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow” | Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University | 700 Beacon St, Boston | Through November 5

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