The Fussy Eye: Perilous Play

Julie Blackmon specializes in eerie, staged photographic tableaux, something like the work of Gregory Crewdson. You know they’re all fake, but they fascinate for their weird, dark-mirror reflection of familiar domestic scenes. In the images of her new show Undertow, we often see unsupervised children in situations that aren’t inherently dangerous but that suggest unseen menace. Suburban backyards and garages are places of wildness and exploration; and anyone who recalls childhood honestly will know how kids are impelled to find the danger. Playing with fire, poking dead animals with sharp sticks, daring your buddy to jump off the roof—that’s how kids learn to deal with risks, to mentally process the notions of injury and death. In Blackmon’s Stock Tank, for instance, a backyard pool seems more fit for drowning than swimming. You can’t tell if the skinny limbs and torsos are floating or sinking beneath the water’s surface. The diving board is blood-red. The lawn appears to have been burned—intentionally?—in some stunt with matches. An empty lawn chair is where a parent ought to be sitting, but there’s no lifeguard in the frame. (Perhaps Dad has gone inside for yet another beer.) Who will notice if one of the seven kids goes missing? Is there an eighth already at the bottom of the blue cauldron? Who ought to be wearing those pink flip-flops? There’s no reassurance or clarity to Blackmon’s scenes; even the water seems opaque. G. Gibson Gallery, 300 S. Washington St. (Tashiro Kaplan Building), 587-4033, ggibsongallery.com. Free. 11 a.m.– 5 p.m. Wed.–Sat. Ends July 13.

 
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