The striking, surreal large-format digital photographs of Berkeley’s Peter Honig employ the conventions of commercial photography — sharp focus, straightforward composition, shadow-less lighting and a white backdrops — to examine and subvert the consumer desires implanted by ads bombarding us from catalogues, newspapers, magazines, television and the internet.
Printed at three by four feet and mounted on aluminum panels, the images resemble store display signage — but advertising what? In Dream of Flighta bird appears to have crashed onto small salmon-pink bed and decayed into a skeleton sporting a few feathers; the headboard and footboard are carved into wavy lines suggesting birds in flight, perhaps Van Gogh’s crows. In Follow-Up Visit, Neurologist’s Office, 74 Harley St., London,we see a stone wall with an arched, transomed doorway and gated porch, before which sits a small shapeless figure with a baglike torso and a disc-shaped head — Kafka’s tragically stoic Man from the Country, the eternal supplicant, crossed with one of George Grosz’s fussball-headed, featureless automatons.
It is unlikely that collectors will cease to see art as speculative investments and consumer goods; that revolution that would be economically undesirable anyway. Honig’s parody product shots, however, like Barbara Kruger’s subversive détournements of fashion photography, remind us that the art we admire, acquire and display really do say something about us, just as lifestyle ads do, only it’s not always as flattering as we think.