Philip-Lorca diCorcia: East of Eden at David Zwirner Gallery
Provoked by the “collapse of everything” from the 2008 financial/housing crisis, legendary American photographer Philip-Lorca DiCorcia began an ongoing series of large-scale photographs based around several key themes, including the biblical book of Genesis, the idea that people born blind don’t dream in images, and a disillusioned economic climate within the USA at the end of the Bush administration.
This amalgamation resulted in the aptly titled East of Eden, an intriguing and profoundly resonating exhibition taking its name from John Steinbeck’s iconic California-based novel (published in 1952) that paralleled many biblical themes, including the classic struggle between good and evil. DiCorcia’s East of Eden is a multifaceted and thought-provoking collection, twisting and weaving unique perspectives into standard biblical stories. His striking tableau Epiphany depicts the tempting snake sliding down a tree in Eden, only now the snake’s an athletic stripper and the tree is her dancing pole. In diCorcia’s Cain and Abel (2013) the “brothers” are captured in a fully-clothed embrace on the corner of a bed (whether it is aggressive or sexual seems deliberately ambiguous), while a naked pregnant Eve watches from the doorway.
Born in 1951, diCorcia is mainly known for meticulously constructing a poignant image, which then appears as merely a random or informal snapshot: Stockton, California (2009) is on the surface an expertly composed photo of a regular home, but study it in more depth and you begin to see the scorch marks. The ordinary house and lovely garden now evoke a strong sense of survival, in contrast with the surrounding fire-ravaged devastation.
Some images feature the photographer’s family (Abraham, 2010 – of his son, and Iolanda, 2011 – his ex-mother-in-law), while others depict actors or relative strangers: Andrea (2008) is a blind woman standing at the edge of her own Garden of Eden. But in every photo diCorcia carefully peels back apparent banality to reveal dark, delightful truths concealed or overlooked within everyday scenarios.
While East of Eden stands alone, clearly expressing many psychological layers and emotions, it was a great privilege and pleasure to attend a walk-through with the artist; learning his thoughts and the origins of each photo substantially enhances their meaning and identity. A video camera was present during the tour, so attendees at the free and fascinating show will also be able to hear the uniquely gifted diCorcia’s compelling histories.
Philip-Lorca di Corcia: East of Eden is at David Zwirner Gallery until 16th November 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.