Photograph’s with an Audience (Miami) featured in ArtSlant

November 27th, 2011

Taken from After Image by Felecia Chizuko Carlisle
Published November 27th, 2011 in ArtSlant


Gallery Diet is a large space, painted from floor to ceiling in stark white, uncannily resembling the traditional “white box” used in photography studios to create neutral environments that are evenly lit. These environments are especially useful for documenting art objects, where it is insinuated that the art stands unaffected by context. Historically, the contention would be that this is simply a farce and that there is no such thing as a neutral space. Every space has meaning. Clifford Owens’ series “Photographs with an Audience” takes advantage of this argument, setting the stage for a controversial and multi-layered body of work. Owens transforms Gallery Diet into a photo studio, a performance space, a social forum, and in the end returns it back to its original form as an art gallery.

Entering Gallery Diet, I was confronted with all the bright lights, bells and whistles of a typical fashion shoot. It appeared to be a scene one would find on the streets of South Beach at night, with the expectation that some gorgeous model would appear in front of the camera at any given moment and pose provocatively for mass consumers. There was even a fairly large group of spectators surrounding, seemingly eager to catch a glimpse of glamour. Rather than a scantily clad blonde bombshell, Clifford Owens appears instead, as an average African-American male, stereotypically dressed in the artist’s trademark black. His posture was defiant and his condescending rant played up the cliché of the “angry artist”: demanding, irritable, aggressive… a prima donna. He complained right away that things were just not going as planned here in Miami. People in Miami are notoriously late. He could not concentrate as the audience trickled in on “island time,”  twenty minutes after the scheduled “show time.” He fiercely proclaimed, “This would never happen in NYC.” There it was, out in the open, evidence of another popular stereotype: the New Yorker who believes he is the center of the known universe and that his superiority is obvious upon comparison. His antagonistic mutterings continued until everyone was settled and he could begin the next act…



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