Review: Annie MacDonell and Diane Arbus at Mercer Union.

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

(MacDonnell)

If you’re looking for a bit of glam, you should consider visiting Mercer Union in the near future. For the next two months, the gallery will be lit up like a movie set to display two complimentary shows. Annie MacDonell‘s Originality and the Avant Garde (On Art and Repetition), is showing alongside a retrospective on the photography of Diane Arbus, curated by Pierre Leguillon and entitled, Diane Arbus: A Printed Retrospective, 1960-1971.

Shimmering spot lights shine down on MacDonell’s collection of photographs in the first section of the gallery. Don’t be intimidated by the mirror-paneled bomb-shelter off to the side, it’s merely a projection room. Inside, a short film of a man eloquently sharing his opinion of society’s ‘obsession with the original’ rolls over and over, superimposing itself on the previous projection and becoming a blur of the man’s hesitations, emphases and moments of reflection. This might be enough for some, but the Mercer Union doesn’t leave it at that.

(Pierre Leguillon)

In the second room of the gallery, a retrospective of the work of Diane Arbus is arranged across all four walls. Her photographs, which appeared in Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, among other places, are framed, but most often shown with the original article in a scrapbook like arrangement, featuring celebrities of times past, including Mae West and Norman Mailer. An honourable mention goes out to her 1966 shot of the toothless Frank Stella, grinning widely while puffing on a cigar.

Exhibited together, the works of these two spectacular photographers are enriching and lively. MacDonell’s work displays postmodern scepticism, while Arbus reminds us of photography’s ability to simply capture the human spirit. It’s hard to say if MacDonell was inspired or disillusioned by Arbus, but nonetheless, they both go down as incredible artists.

Both shows run at Mercer Union until March 10.

– Anne Deck

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