by Laura Hutson
Brian Alfred: It’s Already the End of the World
When: Through Jan. 13, 2013
Where: The Frist
The Brian Alfred exhibit at The Frist is reductive, bland and sort of same-y, but I think that’s the point. It’s a tough show to parse, because visually it’s very shallow and superficial — flat planes of color that look as if they could have been stenciled from photoshopped jpegs — but contextually it’s quite rich. I’ll give Alfred the benefit of the doubt and say he’s created his work in this manner as a comment on the relationship between the medium and the message. From the exhibition essay, by curator Mark Scala: “Alfred depicts subjects ranging from architecture and technology to instances of social upheaval and heroic humanism, positing a hidden connectedness that cannot be known, only sensed.”
In the Scene's Fall Guide, I suspected that Alfred's work would lie somewhere between Shepard Fairey and Alex Katz. It is that, but there's also a lot of Waking Life and Cuban propaganda influence in there. My favorite is the selection of Alfred's 333 portraits called "Millions Now Living Will Never Die." I also think it's a smart addition to the main gallery's Carrie Mae Weems retrospective: Alfred's work picks up on a lot of the political, issue-laden heat that Weems' work inspires, and I'd be curious to see whether those associations transcend this particular placement.
More on Alfred — including better photos of his work! — are on his website.