Jonathan Viner is pleased to present ‘Look Like Barbie, Smoke Like Marley’, an exhibition of new works by Max Farago. The exhibition samples a 2012 project in which Farago located a temporary troupe of subjects at marginal settings in the Los Angeles landscape - post-foreclosure McMansions, icy shopping malls, overcrowded pool patios - with results that are seemingly overfamiliar, but actually unprecedented.
A veteran of documentary street photography and of the complex staging and styling of fashion shoots, Farago is a connoisseur of artifice and authenticity, precision and pretense. The photos of ‘Look Like Barbie, Smoke Like Marley’ look real, feel fake, feel real, look fake. How they look and how they feel are the realest things about them. They document ambiguous incidents in semi-staged narratives, with sort-of actors and sort-of models sort-of acting and sort-of modelling. They are about family and friendship and youth and age and sex and death. Each documented incident casually destabilizes the network of interpolated relationships between the troupe of subjects: sisters become lovers, brothers become boyfriends, intimates become strangers. The result is a confluence of family and sensuality, actual and artificial, that recalls the usual descriptions of shoots in the nearby San Fernando Valley, home of the American pornography industry’or the parallel spectacle of reality television.
In America, the ascent of reality television coincided with that other televised event, the American excursion into Iraq. These events share certain properties: fabricated premises, seemingly simplified but actually complicated narratives of peril and possibility, ally and enemy, all deployed to shock and awe. Farago’s images adopt and distort the visual
But this is not another freak show. Nor, entirely, another remix in a recursive cycle of visual appropriations. There is in Farago’s every image an extraordinarily visible compassion, a street sympathy, for the characters, for the real-life people who embody them, and for the real-lifebodies themselves, that Farago has cast into this constructed reality’just as America’s best young people, with their candor, cheer, and courage,were cast into their country’s strangest war: innocent of the world they were born into, doing their best with what was put into their hands, captured by cameras. It is a compassion that, just maybe, breaks that recursive cycle, and shatters its way, as sharp as the edge of a mirror, intosomething new.
Max Farago was born in Rhode Island, USA in 1980. He received his B.A. in Art History and Photography at New York University in 2002. Farago has presented his work in the solo exhibition Disconnect at Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Group shows include DIS Image Studio at Suzanne Geiss Gallery, New York, NY (2013); Hot Time Tub Machine atCanada Gallery, New York, NY (2012); Heads with Tails at Harris Lieberman Gallery, New York, NY (2011) and The Future of the Photography Museum at FOAM Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. He has had commissioned featuresand portfolios published in The New Yorker, The Journal, Double, Paris Vogue, Art Review and Purple. Farago lives and works in New York.