Tue Jul 1 2008
Photograph: Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
In his U.S. solo debut, French photographer Philippe Gronon presents a cool front. His photos of wall safes, library card catalogs and elevator doors, enlarged to actual size, cover the gallery like so many depthless facades. Treated with a matter-of-fact approach and an extreme fidelity to detail, each item is transformed into a shiny surface that, however seductive to the eye, resists deeper penetration.
This approach underscores the thread linking seemingly disparate subjects: They’re all spaces to which access is denied. While this may seem more true of safes stuffed with jewels, for example, than for card catalogs, Gronon’s images suggest that they are all ultimately open only to the initiated.The nature of the places in which he’s taken the photos drives his point home: The catalog belongs to the Vatican Library in Rome, and is organized under an unfathomable system of headings that includes “Cardinali,” “Poesie Anonime” and “Alas….” The elevators are in the Lyceum Kennedy, an international school in midtown, and in the gallery’s own building in Chelsea. This unlikely constellation suggests that material, religious and cultural riches are all highly guarded domains. It also serves to illuminate Gronon’s true inquiry, namely regardingthe status of the photographic image as an archive for hidden knowledge.