Untitled (model flying from the bedroom window), 1995
Moderndallas.net re-post of my article
When visiting galleries on Dragon Street, sometimes I make the mistake of not dropping in to see PDNB Gallery. Yet when I remember to peek inside, I often find images that move me or challenge me. Because photography is encountered by us everyday in multiple platforms, sometimes I forget that photos can be artfully made. This month PDNB Gallery features Dallas’ own Geof Kern and his dialogue photos with Modern artists.
I say the Kern is in a dialogue, because he not only references Modernist artists directly, but also plays within the style and motif of these 20th century artists. I read a few articles that bat around the term ‘surreal’ to describe his style and I see Kern playing with this idea of dream imagery, but I think this term of ‘surreal’ oversimplify his photos. I would more closely align his work with the absurdist writers. Kern plays with the slightly off, out of set narrative rather than the completely conscious realm. I can’t stop thinking about Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void, when looking at Kern’s Untitled (model flying from the bedroom window). The leap is more of a walk, but I see a clear correlation between Kern and Klein, only Kern’s model takes on an expression that looks like it came out of a Paul Delvaux painting.
Geof Kern may add to the glut of images you see in ads, but at least Kern meticulously stages his work like a filmmaker might orchestrate a movie set. His drawings conceptualize his ideas and then his production of the image leaves less to chance. Personally I enjoy photographs that are heavily staged. I feel comfortable with the language film and moving pictures have created and Kern manages to recreate this modern mythical feeling in his photos. Similar to the feeling I get when I see a Cindy Sherman photo from her Untitled Film Still series. You come away thinking, haven’t I seen that shot in a movie? You might say Kern helps to add a little mystery in his images. It might be just me, but I see the possibility of a Hitchcock type plot playing out in some of these photos.
Now I have been critical of glossy, soulist fashion photography in the past, but I am also enthusiastic about anyone that can take their craft and turn it into art. I believe Kern is one such photographer that moves his craft away from the mundane vehicle of selling a product to a photographer that make extraordinarily engaging images which just happen to associate themselves with desirable objects. Go to the show and see if you can pick out some of the artists he pays homage to, and also see how he takes his own direction on themes. PDNB Gallery will be showing Geof Kern’s photos through November 15th.
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