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Frieke Janssens
Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen


Frieke Janssens, ''Classic Red,'' 2011, digital chromogenic dye print mounted to plexi, 35 x 35''.

 

Continuing through May 4, 2013

 

Belgian artist Frieke Janssens’ exhibition of photographs depicts young children smoking, a blatant novelty that has not surprisingly incited controversy. The jarring content is the sort that provokes strong opinions at the very idea of it, though a visit to the exhibition proves that, while the work serves as a critique of the nostalgic glamorization of smoking, it’s no mere propagandistic, anti-smoking gimmick. 

 

The series is elegant, yet unnerving; the children are clad in old-fashioned outfits holding cigarettes, cigars and pipes in their photoshopped, adult hands. Bordering on absurdity are works like “Ringlings,” in which a small blonde issues comically large smoke rings. “The Chimney” strikes a contemporary nerve with smoke rising Lil Wayne-style from a boy’s open mouth. In “Classic Red,” a young girl is shot in profile, her small face peeking out from a black, satin hood, holding a Marlboro stained with the apple-red of her lipstick. It's an image that embodies the grimness and the beauty that makes Janssens’ subject matter both complex and charged.


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