One of Soulier’s photographs The Square Roots 2 hangs in the stairwell of the gallery. It shows an interior space of a two-storied dwelling that is covered in a green fractal pattern. The structure is opened towards the viewer like a dollhouse. The viewer can even observe the floor joists between the floor of the second story and the ceiling of the first floor. A tree is growing in the second story space its roots lifting up the floorboards and penetrating down to the first floor. A boy of Gulliverian scale is resting his head on the floor of the second story with his feet warmly nestled on the first floor. A red wheelbarrow rests at the roots of the tree. The boy looks peaceful and is not disturbed by his overgrown size and his cramped dwelling. The organized design of the rooms and the green fractal pattern give this photograph a sense of calm to an otherwise uncomfortable situation. Unlike Alice’s Adventures the boy seems at ease with his outsized proportions.
Soulier’s The Matryoshka Dolls is the most striking of the photographic group. In the photograph a red haired girl with light blue eyes looks tentatively out towards the viewer. Her hands are extended outward holding hands of figures that cannot be seen by the viewer. She is dressed in a futuristic red garment. She is in the foreground of the photograph set against a red background with two rows of arcaded doors. The colors are vivid and intense with a fractal pattern inspired by Russian Matryoshka Dolls that gives the photo its title. The girl has a blank look on her face but it is as if she wants to say something she can’t. She is separated from the viewer by a handrail that seems to trap her in a world that is beautiful but possibly repressive. The girl seems trapped in a conformity that she does not understand as if she is unaware of any other reality.
My favorite painting of Bahen’s in the show however was They Were Never Out of Their Saddles. It is the most straightforward of the paintings. It is the depiction of the interior of an abandoned warehouse with two dogs playing (or fighting) an old door is inexplicably propped up near the center of the painting. The warehouse’s central skylight illuminates the interior of the space. The interplay of light and textures is remarkably rendered. It is a painting that does not come across well in photographs and is best appreciated in person.
Matt Bahen: The Curve of the Earth runs through December 23, 2105
Claire Oliver Gallery is located at 513 W 26th St, New York, NY