The kids aren’t all right

Unsettling photographs at the Bell Gallery
By GREG COOK  |  November 13, 2007
AN EMOTIONAL JOLT: Greenberg’s “Shock.”

Children inhabit strange synthetic worlds in the exhibition “KIDS” at Brown University’s Bell Gallery. Gallery director Jo-Ann Conklin brings together 33 images by three photographers — Julie Blackmon of Springfield, Missouri; Jill Greenberg of Los Angeles; and Ruud van Empel of Amsterdam — who photograph children and digitally manipulate their images.
Van Empel creates breathtaking eerie magical scenes of children in lush forests, jungles and ponds. In “World #1,” a black girl in a pristine white dress stands holding a white flower under the giant leaves of a lush green jungle. In “Untitled #1,” a white girl with blonde braided pony tails stands in a lacy white dress with her arms stiffly at her side amidst a birch forest. In “World #13,” a topless black boy with big solemn eyes stands waist-deep in a pond. His hands are folded in front of him in what feels like a religious pose. (Van Empel is inspired by First Communion photos.) The boy is framed by big leaves and pitcher plants. At top, a lily pad floats above his head like a halo.
These photos, from 2003 to ’06, are assembled by combining as many as 100 images into a single scene. They recall the lavishly staged and retouched campy dream photos of French duo Pierre et Gilles; the chilly digitally-manipulated photos of children by German photographer Loretta Lux, and Chicago painter Kerry James Marshall’s scenes of black residents (their skin painted simply black) of housing projects called gardens.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Photography, Brown University, Gregory Crewdson,  More more >
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