Whitehot Magazine

Turn My Way At OCDChinatown

Installation view: Turn My Way at OCDChinatown, 2024.


By TANNON RECKLING March 21, 2024

In a nondescript Chinatown mall, up the stairs from the ground-floor marketplace, an exhibition of queer photography challenges the symbols and stereotypes of what often pass as representation. ‘Some people are made to be photographed and some people are made to make photographs’, writes David Velasco in the exhibition’s introduction. ‘Sometimes, in rare alloys of kismet and appetite, both these destinies cohere in a single person.’ The exhibition showcases the captivating works of Ethan James Green, Martine Gutierrez, and Sam Penn, whose photography enthralls viewers as they skillfully turn their lenses inward. Each artist presents a singular photographic piece, confidently positioned agonist gray walls within the intimate office-like gallery space. As visitors navigate through the vibrant and bustling mall below, they find themselves enveloped in the contrasting ambiance of OCDChinatown. This juxtaposition accentuates the exhibition's engagement with photography, showcasing its capacity to humanize amidst times dominated by highly produced imagery and pervasive social mediation.

Gutierrez gazes out with a dreamy intensity, depicted in a large framed black-and-white photo visible at first from the hallway through a glass wall upon entering. The stark contrast of the monumental photo against the cool gray expanse of the wall it adorns is striking. Her hair is caught in mid-motion and her arms cover her chest and mouth in a pose resembling the perfume advertisements seen on the street outside. Playful yet intimate, this untitled photograph mirrors her 2023 exhibition ‘Supremacy’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art – itself a nod to Jeff Koons’ own billboard from exhibition ‘Image World: Art and Media Culture’ (1989). The nested allusions are the point, as they speak to our propensity to recast ourselves in the image of what we desire. ‘I’m hidden in the constant nostalgia of my references. --- We are screenshots of everything we’ve ever liked,’ Gutierrez told Whitney curator Marcela Guerrero. This self-aware reflection encapsulates a broader thematic resonance echoed throughout the exhibition. 

Installation view: Turn My Way at OCDChinatown, 2024.

Confidently positioned at the center of an adjacent gray wall, a small yet commanding framed photograph presents a reclining twink nestled upon a plush couch. Bathed in sepia tones, the scene exudes a sense of timeless elegance, casting a tranquil aura over the space. Ethan James Green's Living Room Self-Portrait (2023) captures a familiar coy expression, reminiscent of encounters one might encounter on platforms like Grindr. Amidst the scene, a stack of books and a statuette rest languidly, while a striking painting graces the mantle, infusing the cozy environment with a touch of sophistication and depth. Despite its apparent simplicity, the photograph hints at a richly cultured and multifaceted world, mirroring the layered narrative evoked by Gutierrez's work. Green’s practice often jumps contexts and this photo leans into his ability to change pace in environments. His work is seen around the likes of New Yorker, Time, Vogue, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Versace, Fendi, and much more. Green also founded New York Life Gallery in 2022. 

Adorning the final expanse of the gray wall, a mesmerizing triptych by Sam Penn commands attention, offering intimate close-ups of a nude form seemingly imbued with a dynamic sense of movement and vitality. The trio of elongated photographs, suspended in graceful succession, delicately infuse the predominantly monochromatic gallery space with subtle splashes of flesh tones, each frame capturing a fleeting moment of raw energy and expressive grace. Late Morning I, II, and III (​​2023) shows a reverence for everyday moments – as in much of Penn’s work. She freezes them in place as best she can. Her work asks: “Who gets to look at women and girls?” 

Installation view: Turn My Way at OCDChinatown, 2024.

Below I ask OCDChinatown founder Liutas van Hook about this exhibition. 

Can you give your thoughts on this exhibition and the scope of OCDChinatown’s past queer photography engagement?

Liutas van Hook:  In this exhibition of self-portraiture by three close friends, the viewer is placed in the middle of three projections of selves. ‘Turn My Way’ is the second exhibition at OCDChinatown in which I asked an artist with whom I have an ongoing engagement to curate a show with their friends.

How does queer photography play a part in building community and larger visual culture today?

Liutas van Hook: The staging of one’s own self is an ongoing theme in queer art. These works capture queerness as beauty, identity and otherness, in both celebration and documentation.  

The exhibition prompts contemplation on what constitutes visibility, representation, or consumption. What is portfolio data for profit; what is information to help us gather; what is smut to actually enjoy? As we navigate the complexities of identity and desire in social media ecologies, ‘Turn My Way’ serves as an interesting check-in for visual culture in the 2020’s.

OCDChinatown’s Turn My Way is on view from February 9th through March 31st, 2024. WM 

Tannon Reckling

Tannon Reckling is an HIV-positive writer, curator and arts worker. Reckling has been at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. They are interested in messy queer ontologies, hacked technologies, nuanced shadow labour and collaborating with you. @foreclosedgaybar

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