Natural Wonderment of the Unnatural Kind
Fine art photographer Simen Johan’s show, “Until the Kingdom Comes,” fills the Yossi Milo Gallery in Chelsea with a mythical world of beasts that seem almost possible. Or are they impossible creations?
Johan, based in New York but born in Norway and lived in Sweden, mostly constructs the images of giraffes, gorillas, and plumaged birds from zoos and incorporates them into landscapes they would never exist in, such as Turkey (giraffes, shrouded in mist); Spain (Asian peacocks, almost imperceptibly hidden); Iceland (South American blackbirds).
Perhaps one day, thanks to climate change or some other calamity, Iceland will be home to sub-Saharan species, but until then we have photographs to look at.
These recent C-prints from the series, which has been ongoing since 2005, seem more successful because the artifice has been toned down a bit to make reality almost possible. Most of us are used to digital reconstructions today and almost expect it in lens-based contemporary art, but Johan seems to have pulled back the right amount.
For example, in Untitled #177, 2013, the tree nearly perfectly camouflages the hidden bird enough to give us pause and look at the whole landscape—not wonder about Photoshop and how it was created.
“Until the Kingdom Comes,” was shown in 2012 in Providence at David Winton Bell Gallery of Brown University and Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville in 2012, among others.
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