Iekeliene Stange @ Projekt Galerie
The opening of I love Ponies, Iekeliene Stange's first solo show, offered homemade fruit and nut filled cupcakes on a table decorated with My Little Ponies in the tiny basement exhibition room under the Projekt Galerie's store-front space. That was where the Dutch photographer/fashion model presented her Polaroids hung in clusters on the red brick walls.
In one image, a boy is collapsed over a squat, weathered woodshed in a lush green mountain scene. A pensive pouting blond girl clutches a pipe in her hand and slumps under the apparent weight of hatreds piled upon her head. Another image shows a pretty girl posed in a romper decorated with a Winnie-the-Pooh print and wearing a fluffy bunny mask, standing against a simplistic drawing of a face spray-painted onto a concrete wall.
The surrealism of Stange's imagery is idyllic and inviting. Stange, currently living in London, captures much of the elegant, hallucinogenic idealism championed by the Pre-Raphaelites in their luscious and lovely youth. Yet viewers whose skepticism has been sharpened by deceptively sweet, strange scenes leading to nightmares and chaos in horror films and frightening stories will intuit something sinister in Stange's work. For them, her images evoke associations with Alice in Wonderland, the Wizard of Oz, HarmonyKorine's Julien Donkey-Boy, the gauzy little girls singing "one, two, Freddy is coming for you . . ." and ultimately, Frank, the death-bringing bunny in Donnie Darko. Seen from this perspective, placid, pretty and playful scenes of sweet delirium inevitably end in mania, evil and misery.
But the underlying strength in Stange's work is that there is no implication of impending doom. Instead, her works retain an alluring, lulling, child-like charm, making cynicism seem like an immature adolescent affectation.
In an interview we conducted for Style.com, Stange defended her soft surrealism with the statement that, "I think it's good to stay with a playful mind. I want this to reflect in my images, and hopefully inspire people to a lighter approach of seeing things.
Ana Finel Honigman is a Berlin-based critic. She writes about contemporary art and fashion for magazines including Artforum.com, Art in America, V, TANK, Art Journal, Whitewall, Dazed & Confused, Saatchi Online, Style.com, Dazeddigital.com, British Vogue, Interview and the New York Times's Style section. A Sarah Lawrence graduate, Ana has completed a Masters degree and is currently reading for a D.Phil in the History of Art at Oxford University. She also teaches a contemporary art course for NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development students. You can read her series Ana Finel Honigman Presents
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