Leo Castelli Gallery is pleased to present In Pari Delicto, an exhibition of new photographs by Diana Kingsley, her third solo show at the gallery. Kingsley, continuing to mine the terrain of the slight incident and the small indignity, has ratcheted up a sense of the absurd while maintaining the cool formalism and deadpan humor of her previous work.
The exhibition’s title, In Pari Delicto, a somewhat archaic legal term meaning “in equal fault,” connotes an elegance and charged sensuality belying the prosaic resignation of the phrase’s meaning. Dress gloves, cigarettes, sterling silver sets, antiques, and thoroughbreds anachronistically symbolize sophistication, while barely disguising a standoff between ordinary, commensurable forces: incumbent and invading, animated and inert, covetous and restrained. In the slow unfolding of non-events each side acts in balletic concert; no side is privileged.
In “Delicate Beast” a tangle of unruly dried branch arrangements impossibly grows into a silver chalice as a live praying mantis materializes under the tangle, creepily mocking its own cartoon depiction on the background wallpaper. In “Bad Seed” the busywork of an unseen miscreant defaces the back of an antique chair with a spray of equestrian stickers. In “Night Ramble” a hand in an ill-fitting glove confronts a succulent gardenia in a mysterious stalemate as a cigarette in the gloved fingers languishes, ready to drop ash on the mitt’s clean whiteness.
Though the images are strikingly lush, there is something discomfiting about their deliberate, almost defiant prettiness. Kingsley’s precise compositional rigor even hints at an inherent inanity in such photographic strategies. It is the unexpected contradictions and tensions in both form and subject matter that give the work its mischievous wit and power.