Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Thomas Demand's "Junior Suite"

photomontage: Gothamist
Carol Vogel’s Inside Art column from Friday’s Times reported on a Thomas Demand photo called “Junior Suite” that will be part of an upcoming show of the photographer's work at Matthew Marks ("A Remade Tabloid Image of Houston's Last Meal," NYT, 4/26/12) In the photograph Demand reprises a shot of Whitney Houston’s final meal first posted on a site called TMZ. According to the Times Demand checked into a similar room to the one Houston occupied at the Beverly Hilton on the evening of her death and ordered the same foods: a hamburger and fries, a beer, a flute of champagne. The flowers that decorated the original room service setting added a particular note of tristesse to both the original photo and Demand’s version of the event. What to call Demand’s work? A reproduction is literally what it is, but in photographic terms a reproduction is a duplication of the original and what Demand has created is clearly a separate work of art based upon a photo of the crime scene. “I don’t have anything to say about Whitney Houston,” Mr. Demand told Vogel who went on to explain. “Rather, it was the way the shot itself had the quality of a l7th-century Dutch still life that intrigued him.” What Demand has done is the equivalent of journalists using the techniques of fiction to enter their subject’s minds. Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer's The Executioner’s Song provide the literary antecedent for Demand’s gothic “last supper.”

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