15 November 2019-31 May 2020
This exhibition at GOMA’s Gallery 3 dedicated to Hal Fischer, an American artist whose most prolific works were produced in San Francisco in the late 1970s, focuses on his photographic endeavours from the aforementioned era. According to GOMA, this is the first time UK institution has acquired these photographs, which are by many considered the most significant works of his career.
Fischer’s conceptual approach to photography is apparent in all of the exhibits. As the visitor steps into the gallery space, they immediately recognise the style and atmosphere of the artist’s work. All of the photographs are figurative, portraying gay men (it is important to note that Fischer only chose to represent men, there is no representation of women from the LGBTQ community) in a candid, however not overtly scandalous or over-sexualised way. There is a sense of honesty and rawness in his work, without the immediacy or sexually explicit nature of photographs by the likes of Nan Goldin, which springs to mind as a somewhat of easy comparison. Each photograph is accompanied by a short description or text in support of the overall concept.
To illustrate, one of the series shows different “(stereo)types” of gay men, focusing specifically on the choice of clothing or accessory (see Figure 1). Fischer wittily labels each item his subjects are wearing, in the style of lighthearted fashion magazines and titles each look in a crude, overly stereotypical way. This sort of labelling is, in my interpretation, a subversion of gay stereotyping, done to highlight its absurdity in a humorous way. Arguably, this approach is at risk of not being deemed politically correct in this day and age, however, viewers must refer back to the context of the times and the artist’s background.
Curation is appropriate and comprehensive. Labels and descriptions are brief and to the point, making it easy for the visitor to stay present and invested. Fischer’s photography is done in black&white and exhibited in a classical white cube environment which, paired with good lighting, gives viewers an ability to fully focus on the subjects.
All in all, this exhibition is done in an educational and minimalistic way and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Multiple themes explored by Fischer in this exhibition will likely provoke thought while being entertaining and technically stunning at the same time.