Anthony Hernandez: Christopher Grimes Gallery
Holte, Michael Ned, Artforum International
MAKE ME A LATE BREAKFAST: A T-shirt emblazoned with this decadent demand appears near the top of Anthony Hernandez's photograph Beverly Hills #34, 1984, behind a wild-maned Raquel Welch wannabe posing in a gray, asymmetrical jersey dress. In a complex act of doubling--of herself and of the stillness of the photographic image--the woman also wants to be a mannequin: She is not posing specifically for the photograph, but was apparently frozen in this stance in order to sell clothes off the rack to tourists in Beverly Hills.
Known in recent years for his meticulously composed images of evacuated spaces--the depopulated construction site of the Walt Disney Concert Hall; barren industrial tunnels accommodating the Los Angeles River; abandoned provisional homeless dwellings--Hernandez's recent exhibition of sixteen candid color shots taken on and around Rodeo Drive in 1984 place the human subject front and center. Despite adopting an improvisational mode of street photography very different from his current approach, these vintage images--particularly the lush "Beverly Hills" series--are aesthetically striking, but their form also serves their documentary function. The reemergence of these strangely familiar images suggests an attenuated feedback loop of cultural nostalgia for another deeply conservative period. In 1984, Los Angeles might as well have been the center of the universe (it hosted the Olympics), with Beverly Hills the capital of an image-conscious, myth-making Empire. These photos index specificity: Pretty women displaying feats of hairspray engineering; a man sporting manicured eyebrows; the design of a Diet Coke can; the gold-framed windows of Cartier; the yellow-and-white striped awnings of what looks like Giorgio--and above all else the gloss of Reaganomics, in all its optimistic glory. …