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The tense space: Todd Hido at the Kemper

2676, 24" x 20" (not on display at Kemper)
2676, 24" x 20" (not on display at Kemper)
Todd Hido

Sometimes quiet, sometimes violent, photography using space as a subject (landscape, architecture, etc.) gains its power to move through its observation of people within a space or their subsequent absence. Currently a part of a group photo exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art examining space as photographic subject, Todd Hido’s Untitled #1975 is wonderful part of a group which is unsettling, haunting, and ultimately beautiful.

The exhibition is entitled “The Poetics of Space” and Hido’s work in particular is known for its sublime use of light and shadow is one of the pieces of the exhibition which examines space the strongest. Hido, a San Francisco-based artist, is known for his portraits of clearly American neighborhoods in cities and suburbs of houses or streets where the trace of people is evident while the people have all seemed to vanish. In Hido’s work, artificial light (typically interiors) mingles with exterior natural light causing an interaction which is startlingly arresting by Hido’s camera.

Hido’s world, houses where the insides glow in orange, yards where snow leaves footprints, rooms where a bed is swallowed up in shadow, is a horror film where the monster is just outside the frame, unseen yet sensed. As far as poetry goes and its interaction in space, Hido’s work is a prime example of an artist pushing the boundaries and raising provocative questions: there is something decidedly filmic about Hido’s tenseness in his compositions, something shocking about his manipulation and utilization of the sublime. His art is frightening and yet, tensely beautiful, images fitting a score by Angelo Badalamenti.

In Untitled #1975, a ranch house in blue sits while a light from inside shines through an ominous orange glow. “What’s happening in there” one is tempted to ask upon looking at the work and it is a question without an answer, part of what makes Hido’s work so thrilling and violent. Occupying a space between stillness and movement and utilizing a square frame, his work has the saturated colors of an off-the-cuff Polaroid and yet unlike a Polaroid of this sort, Untitled is a scene strangely staged, as if David Lynch were waiting in the shadows to guide a lead actress across the frame (ala Lynch’s Inland Empire or Mulholland Drive).

One of the strongest pieces currently on display at the Kemper, Hido’s work explores present and past unease and anxieties, proving that space may be poetic but also decidedly terrifying…as a (free) ticket to an exciting suspense or horror show, Hido is tough to beat. On Display through March 14, 2010.