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Todd Hido
at Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco, California
Recommendation by Dewitt Cheng

Continuing through February 25, 2012

It is a literary trope that you can’t go home again: both you and home have changed with the riverine passage of time, so recapturing the past completely is as impossible as reliving it. Remembrance and interpretation, however, are possible within the disciplined vehicle of art; artists can communicate what it felt like in the past, as well as what the landscape looked like and perhaps still looks like. Todd Hido, who grew up in the middle-class Silver Meadows suburb of Kent, Ohio, revisits his childhood haunts and stamping grounds in “Excerpts from Silver Meadows” (note the novelistic title), a suite of some untitled twenty color photographs of wintry, near monochrome, suburban landscapes. They are beautifully composed in spite of having been shot through his car windshield.

The streaks and blurs on the glass surface may be photographic mistakes to purists, but they conceptually imply distance and detachment even if the landscapes themselves — lines of bare trees by frozen lakes, snow-covered wooden-frame houses framed by telephone poles and commercial signage — are suffused with stillness and melancholy. Those who grew up in the heartland of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg or Thornton Wilder’s Grover’s Corners, who left almost without glancing into the rear-view mirror, and have not made that sentimental journey back, will recognize that scenery with a pang. Also on view are portraits of young women from a series in progress. It turns out that they’re depictions of the same model, a Russian immigrant with a Cindy Sherman-esque gift for re-imagining herself with the aid of changes to wardrobe and makeup; welcome to America.

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