Todd Hido: Excerpts from Silver Meadows, Stephen Wirtz Gallery

One exhibition I have come back to a few times over the past month is Todd Hido’s solo photography show, Excerpts from Silver Meadows at Stephen Wirtz Gallery.

[Todd Hido, Untitled #10121-A,2011. Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery]

The show features large images that were taken near Kent, Ohio, where Hido grew up. We see wintry scenes of modest houses and fields in a flat landscape with a few trees. The effects of snow, wind and the windshield of a car give the images a somewhat blurry quality. Interspersed among these pieces are a contrasting set of clear, high-contrast images featuring female models in vintage dress or poses. All the pieces bear very dry titles that are presumably based on serial numbers of some sort, a detail which I find interesting for what are emotionally strong images.

[Todd Hido, Untitled #10106,2011. Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery]

[Todd Hido, Untitled #10473-B,2011. Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery]

At first glance it may seem to like two shows mashed together into one, a stark wintry landscape in a small community, and stylized portraits of female subjects. The often blurry effects of weather and glass in the exterior images also contrast with the hyper-clarity of the indoor portraits. But taken together they do form a narrative whole that is very film-like. Indeed, I had the impression of stepping into a David Lynch film. The wintry exterior is a small town somewhere in the Midwest that seems perfectly normal. It’s a not a picture postcard of a the archetypical “small town” adorned with a layer of snow, but rather a place that is maybe a little more bleak, a little more tired, a little more isolated. But afterd entering a few of the snow covered houses, a more eerie and eccentric reality emerges within, populated with unnerving but seductive characters. The effect is accentuated by the fact that several of the portraits feature the same model in very different roles and appearances (something I would not have recognized if it were not pointed out to me), but by the dreamlike effect of the inclement weather and dark skies in the outdoor photographs.

[Todd Hido, Untitled #9221,2010. Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery]

My impressions seem in line with Hido’s mission in this collection, “the artist’s metaphorical reckoning with his own past, while providing a majestic summation of the suburban childhood experience in general…homes built similarly to convey stability actually conceal lives seething with sexual and psychological instability.” I also like how he uses road trips as his part of his execution of this vision (indeed, the feeling of looking out a car window in stormy weather permeates much of Hido’s outdoor imagery). It suggests a dark corner of one of my “Fun with Highways” posts.

[Todd Hido, Untitled #1843,1996. Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery]
[Todd Hido, Untitled #10502-42,2011. Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery]

The cat portrait is a bit random, but it is quite humorous and does fit into the overall structure. I thought it worked especially well paired with the classic head portrait reminiscent of the late 1950s or early 1960s.

The show will continue at Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco through February 25.