This show, titled after the photography journal of the same name, celebrated the magazine’s fifth anniversary. Curated by Diffusion editor Blue Mitchell, the exhibition included work by 14 photographers, many of whom combine photography with mixed media. A number of pieces addressed the theme of romance. In Susan kae Grant’s The Gaze (2014), a pair of lovers, their figures flattened and distorted, seem to dance through a shadowy forest. Polly Chandler’s Lay Your Heart Where My Head Used to Be (2011) might be the aftermath of a couple’s tiff: a fully clothed woman glides along the top of a retaining wall, while a man, half-naked, hangs his head, in sorrow or bewilderment, below. On a darker note, Leah MacDonald’s splotched and strained pictures of semi-clad women evoke ruin rather than desire, and Tina Maas’s sepia-toned portraits of pretty girls have more in common with morgue photos than headshots.
Nostalgia seemed to be another theme. Rita Bernstein used soft focus to good effect in Homecoming (2012), a photograph of a house and a solitary figure printed on handmade paper and manipulated with paint and beeswax. Ken Rosenthal likewise employed soft focus in Seen and Not Seen (2001), a shot of a bathing beauty that recalls the blurry strategies of Gerhard Richter. Jeffrey Baker added an ornate gold frame to a gridded seascape of choppy waves called Dark Water (2009) that suggested a weird collaboration between Donald Judd and Winslow Homer. And K.K. DePaul’s mixed-media assemblages—incorporating old photos, combs, handheld chalkboards, and other oddments—are compact evocations of bygone days.
There was fun stuff here too: Cynthia Greig’s witty Nature Mortes (all 2009), more like precise drawings than photographs; Jennifer Thoreson (Hudson)’s goofy tableaux of sleepers in strange interiors (one woman seems to be getting sucked up into a cloud of insulating foam); and Don Gregorio Antón’s dreamy ballets featuring anthropomorphized animals. All in all, “Diffusion” brought together a compelling choir of disparate and quirky voices.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 101.