Tommy Malekoff: Films & Photographs at Agnes B.

Art Scene

Tommy Malekoff: Films & Photographs at Agnes B.

In an intimate front alcove with windows facing the street, an exhibition space flanks the entrance of the fashion legend Agnes B.’s SoHo outpost. The space, known as Galerie Boutique 50 Howard Street, is currently presenting Tommy Malekoff: Films & Photographs. A sister space to Galerie Du Jour, Agnes B.’s signature exhibition space in Paris, the Howard Street location makes an explicit statement on the intersection of fashion and art by its location within the store’s retail space.

Photo credit: Anders Jones

The selection of Malekoff’s work echoes Agnes B.’s long history as a leader in supporting urban art forms. Although the work does not appear to be directly linked to street art, graffiti or street photography, its treatment of everyday vernacular imagery shot in Tennessee, North Carolina and elsewhere seeks to make global connections with other locales including Egypt and Japan, a conversation similar to the global drift of urban culture so prevalent in contemporary society.

Photo credit: Anders Jones

Small scale photographs, still life images from four video works on view, fill one wall of the space, including images from cell phone video that appears in the video work Untitled Home Videos, 2016. Possibly the most stunning photo is a full frame image of kudzu, an invasive vine native to Japan that grows rampant in the American South. Kudzu is the subject of the video Perennial Shadows, 2017. The photograph, filled with green vegetation could be taken from any lush densely green undisturbed landscape on first glance. Its vivid reflection of the wildly organic quality of nature seems to function as a metaphor for the transatlantic movement of cultures to the South. How a Japanese vine made its way there, meanwhile, is a question that few visitors will have an answer to.

Photo credit: Anders Jones

The most compelling work in the exhibition is perhaps a teaser video for Malekoff’s forthcoming work on American parking lots. Something that sounds like a simplistic topic becomes an intriguing meditation on cultural diversity, class, open space, and leisure time upon further examination. A disruption to real time, by slowing down the video, alongside the sound layering of voice and a musical score, help to transform the video into a fascinating mix of realism and fantasy. A host of activities taking place in relatively vacant parking lots elegantly edited comprises the content of the video, from clips of car culture preening, horseback riders, and wrestlers to kids shooting firecrackers the content is bizarrely diverse. One scene featuring a group of young female steppers acts as a leitmotif in the video. Stepping, practiced regularly by African American sororities and fraternities, uses the body as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and the spoken word. The voices of the steppers can be heard riding over music or spinning tires in other visual scenes within the video, creating a sense of continuity and giving voice to human subjects throughout the piece.

© Tommy Malekoff

Tommy Malekoff: Films & Photographs is on view at Agnes B. through 2/28/18.