A Small Number
May 20 – July 2, 2016
This exhibition’s title, A Small Number, conveys the curator’s intent to reference Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger written by contemporary social-cultural anthropologist Arjun Appadurai. The essay probes into globalization, violence, and identity politics, proclaiming that what lurks beneath the sense of threat in modern societies is our fear of small numbers.
A small number of 6 photographs are in the exhibit, selected from Unknown Suspects — a new series of work by widely-acknowledged Massachusetts artist Gary Duehr. They are, however, a reproduction of Duehr’s original work which is created in graphite on 20” x 16” board. Seen in its reproduction format, the exhibit itself becomes a reminder of images we see today: mediated, (re)constructed, reproduced, and (re)circulated around the globe. We rarely see and know the actual.
For that matter, Duehr actually culled images from the web to create these faceless, and figuratively lifeless, portraits. Their visual representation adopts a hidden intention to elicit aversion and danger. Needless to say, they resemble those head shots of black silhouettes that are characteristic of the media depictions of unknown terrorists.
Under America’s current climate of fear, Unknown Suspects presents itself as a response, not to invalidate the fear but to offer a self-reflexive viewpoint. Duehr writes, “These anonymous, shadowy heads act as a kind of Rorschach test for our collective unconscious: what threats do we perceive in their vague ethnicity? We take notice of the tilt of the head, the shape of the ears, the curls or sweep of the hair.” And make no mistake, these images are as much about the ‘unreal’ others as they are, in the artist’s own words, “a mirror that allows us to examine our other selves.”
Maybe, what we’re seeing is no more than our fear of … small numbers.
. . . . . . .
Gary Duehr has been chosen as a Best Emerging Artist in New England by the International Association of Art Critics, and he has received an Artist Grant in photography from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. His work has been featured in museums and galleries including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; MOMA PS 1, New York, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, as well as exhibitions in Tokyo, Venice, London, Dublin and Barcelona. Past awards include grants from the LEF Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.
His public artworks include a video artwork for the Canadian subway system; a photo installation funded by the Visible Republic program of New England Foundation for the Arts, and a commission from the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority) for a permanent photo installation at North Station.
Duehr has written about the arts for journals including ArtScope, Art New England, Art on Paper, Communication Arts, Frieze, and Public Culture. Currently he manages Bromfield Gallery in Boston’s South End.
. . . . . . .