Katy Grannan’s recently released Boulevard speaks volumes. Boulevard’s cover whispers with a wonderful understated intensity–the image of Malaysia stares back through the book’s translucent jacket. The artist speaks for herself: “Yesterday I found Malaysia. I’d seen her several times before, on a lonely stretch of La Brea. There are so many like her: boulevard phantoms. The city drives by without seeing them…” Through Grannan’s lens these ‘phantoms’ are revealed, and given form by a ruthless and unfaltering gaze. Like her last large format book, The Westerners, one could say her newest book captures “freaks.” Yet Boulevard’s subjects elicit an entirely different response from the viewer than Grannan’s past work.
Grannan’s ‘boulevard phantoms’ are captured against blank white walls of sheet rock and stucco, placing her more in the tradition of Avedon than the oft-compared to Arbus. This stark backdrop serves to drown out the ambient noise of “celebrity culture.” Yes, a deteriorating Marilyn Monroe look-a-like and Malaysia’s heavily painted face recall the clichéd story of the star-gazer come to Hollywood in pursuit of fame, or some greater or lesser grail. But the more time you spend with the work, the more apparent it becomes that Katy’s work is about so much more than victims of the California Dream. Her subjects are not portrayed cruelly, but they exude a complicated mixture of aspiration, delusion, and disorientation. As the artist writes, “They thought it would be different here but the reality is crueler and far lovelier…”
Boulevard is printed by our friends at Fraenkel Gallery, and they present the work with the compassion and patience they are known for. Each subject appears on their own page, giving the viewer an opportunity to really look. We at PIP urge you to dive in, and let yourselves be haunted…
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