Jeff Bark’s newest body of work, an exhibition of new photographs he calls GOLDENBOY (now at Hasted Kraeutler), instantly appealed to both Geoffrey and me, but for entirely different reasons. Geoffrey was wildly smitten by the bare-chested hottie who is the subject of half of the photos in the exhibit. But I was more intrigued by the moody, lost-weekend vibe of the yellow-hued still life scenes, and the recreation of what I correctly took to be a southern California backyard – mostly because it reminded me so much of the backyard of my own childhood home located in Orange County.
This backyard (which was recreated for the project inside Bark’s NYC apartment!) provides the setting for many of the photos. When you couple the erotically charged images of a handsome young man with what looks like an environment of leisurely suburban decay, to say that these photos encourage imaginative extrapolation is a huge understatement.
As the exhibit’s Press Release details: “GOLDENBOY is sited inside and around the young man’s California abode, offering a glimpse into the spaces and routines of his seemingly idyllic daily life. But something is always awry: near-appealing symbols of his languid existence are juxtaposed with disturbing, even macabre details. As he sits in a chaise lounge eating popsicles, a dead plant studded by sharp spikes hovers ominously behind him.
An elegant arrangement of yellow roses is corrupted by the remains of a keg-party, their roots flooded by empty plastic cups. It’s a disturbing clash of idyll and decay, the indulgent and the morbid. The question persists: will he live up to and embrace his own potential for greatness? Or perhaps he will turn away from it, choosing instead to pursue a darker destiny.”
That passage describes a lot of guys I knew when I was living in California, especially right after college, in the 80s, which is the timeframe that Bark aims to capture in GOLDENBOY. Although the theme of GOLDENBOY seems tightly focused, I think this is an exhibit with which viewers can have a highly personal experience, depending on individual tastes and backgrounds. Highly recommended.
GoldenBoy by Jeff Bark will be on Exhibit through June 14th, 2014 at Hasted Kraeutler, Located at 537 West 24th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.