|Following the outstanding success of her 2008 debut at Robert Mann Gallery, Holly Andres returns with a new series: The Fall of Spring Hill. With her trademark chromatic brilliance, Andres's large-scale photographs delve into dramatic narratives. Melodrama is her métier. Looking back to another time, that of the artist's childhood, in recent images Andres has worked through a double process of identification: on the one hand with the children of her scenarios — themselves informed by her personal memories — and on the other with the young mothers and women who now represent her own peer group.|
Through the use of symbolically charged spaces and by playing on the potential multiple meanings of everyday words, Andres's latest series plies a singular incident. Adopting the formal language of cinema, The Fall of Spring Hill unfolds in parallel narratives that quickly converge. The setting is a summer church camp, where a group of children play on an old wooden structure, while a group of young mothers prepare a spread of food. An accident interrupts the idyll, leading the women to take up arms and seek retribution.
Here again Andres is concerned with the formal strategies of advancing a narrative via still images and the various levels of signification that can be called upon indirectly to lend the story its interest, as well as the status of female subjectivity both in the past and the present. Andres's eye for detail and the perfect outfitting of a scene lend locations, props and costume an apparent hyper-significance. A shattered coffee cup and a luminous bowl of red punch are more than they initially seem. Childhood innocence has been lost. A group of women are galvanized. It remains, apparently, a world without adult male figures. Alternating between humor and drama, The Fall of Spring Hill has the ring of the familiar becoming extraordinary. Drawing upon both personal and collective mythologies, Andres has developed a distinctive photographic language for her spectacular narratives.
The Fall of Spring Hill is Holly Andres's second solo exhibition at Robert Mann Gallery. The series featured in her previous exhibition, Sparrow Lane, was reviewed in Art in America, artforum.com, ARTnews, Exit Magazine, and Time Out New York, among others. Beyond New York, she has had solo exhibitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and Istanbul, Turkey. Andres received her MFA from Portland State University. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.
The 12 bright, medium-format color prints at Mann are meant to be seen in the order in which they are hung: The Fall of Spring Hill (2011) is a narrative with a beginning, middle and end based on an incident Holly Andres vaguely remembers from her childhood. Children at a church camp are playing in an elevated wooden structure while their mothers prepare lunch in the church kitchen; the mothers sense imminent danger just as a child falls from the structure. The roused mothers take axes and baseball bats and march determinedly to the playing field, where they proceed to demolish the irresponsible structure.
Ms. Andres tells her story through staged tableaux with credible actors and meticulously selected props, and uses lighting and camera angles to achieve a mock gothic atmosphere.
For instance, the huge chef's knife slicing bright-red watermelon in the first picture is pointed ominously toward the viewer, but the cupcakes with pink frosting in the upper left-hand corner seem benign. In two pictures, "The Witnesses #1" and "The Witnesses #2," the children are shown responding to the accident, more with curiosity than alarm.
The seven armed women in "The Mothers Ascending Spring Hill" are bent on retribution and look like figures from a contemporary morality play. Ms. Andres intends to amuse us, but real emotions are evoked.