To open this Fall’s Dubai Art Season, The Empty Quarter Gallery celebrates popular culture with works by internationally acclaimed Berlin based photographers Billy & Hells and American born portrait photographer Susan A. Barnett.
On the surface they appear the most unlikely of choices for a duo-solo exhibition, what they both possess however, is an edgy iconographic style. There exists an inherent playfulness that may sometimes include a hint of irony. One photographs in the traditional frontal view implementing a stylish twist and the other from the back exploring whether body type, dress and demeanor can tell us just as much as a facial expression might. Billy & Hells express through images of clothing and fashion, society’s fascination with aesthetic ideals. Barnett, on the other hand, explores the cultural, political and social issues that have an impact on our everyday lives through the most humble of American clothing, the t-shirt.
Billy & Hells is a pseudonym comprised of photographers Anke Linz and Andreas Oettinger. Rumour has it that the pseudonymn “Billy & Hells” comes from the word “Billinghotels” (cheap hotels), a fanciful name for an 'outside of the box' pair of portraitists. Their photographic concept is based on a stylised reality. The pictures appear to be of a classical genre but, somehow different. Making use of fashionable poses, costumes and stunningly beautiful faces they convey “the ironies of an ideal cliché”. The duo discovered what has become their signature visual style via a typical lab-accident story— by forgetting to take a black and white negative out of the developer, they inadvertently produced an intense image with colors that appear simultaneously rich and muted. Their portraits combine elaborate, hand-painted backgrounds and draw inspiration from countless samples of fabrics, color compositions, and clothing that generate a distinct mood for each portrait.
Barnett in the series “Not in Your Face” from which this exhibition is derived, places the t-shirt as stark evidence, allowing it to speak frankly for the wearer. Barnett explains, “In these photographs we witness a chronicle of American subcultures and vernaculars which illustrate the American identity. These photographs demonstrate how these individuals wear a kind of badge of honor or trophy that says ‘I belong to this group not the other’. Each one of these people reveals a part of themselves that advertises their hopes, ideals, likes, dislikes, political views, and personal mantras.”
‘Silk Rose & Sneakers’ promises to be a dynamic exhbition comparing and contrasting contemporary artists of our time.
Susan A. Barnett (born in1951) is a celebrated multi-award winning photographer, who resides in New York. Barnett’s fascination with t-shirts began in the seventies when as a young demonstrator she silk screened t-shirts and posters to protest the Vietnam War. Inspired by a vist to New York by the Beatles’ George Harrison, who arrived carrying a Pentax Spotmatic camera, Barnett went out immediately to acquire the same. She then began to photograph her everyday life as it appeared to her. After an internship at the Metropolatin Museum of Art Barnett was employed at the Perls Gallery, a historic gallery on Madison avenue, NY where she worked for fifteen years as Associate Director. Barnett later returned to the School of Visual Arts to study graphic design while continuing to take pictures on the streets of New York City. She continues to act as a consultant in the art world today as well as travelling the world photographing the man on the street.
Anke Linz (born in 1965) & Andreas Oettinger (born in 1963) met in the mid-1980’s and shortly after, began collaborating creatively. It is since 1995 that the two have worked together under the name Billy & Hells. Their professional name reflects the same mystery and edginess evident in their aesthetically pleasing portraits. They have been part of numerous international exhibitions from their home country Germany to the likes of Leica Gallerie, Tokyo; Fundacion Foto Collectionia, Barcelona and CU-1 Gallery in Miami to name but a few.
Billy & Hells were nominated in 2007 for The National Portrait Gallery Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait. The series “Blue Moon” was recently featured in the photographic quarterly Eyemazing. Their work has been exhibited and collected internationally; as well Anke Linz and Andreas Oettinger continue to photograph both advertising and fashion images.