If you are not bored with images of consumerist dystopias, ironically glamorised visions of excess, loss of virtue juxtaposed with symbols of innocence, and basically any sentiment expressed by all fist-thumping-social-commentary artists in practice, then this is the exhibition for you.
Gérard Rancinan, whose works are the subject of the show in question, began his career as a press photographer, and the overall glossiness of the Wonderful World exhibition hints at his former vocation. Walking into the Londonewcastle Project Space on Redchurch Street, you could easily mistake the exhibition inside for a very expensive socio-cultural awareness campaign. The compositions are perfectly choreographed, stylized and groomed. Any frenzy, catastrophe or tragedy is so neat and polished, you almost expect to hear a director’s voice shouting out commands, demanding champagne on set. In fact, you needn’t use your imagination: one of the sets itself is included in this show, as well as footage showing the production of the photographs. Is this such a bad thing? Perhaps not, were it an exhibition showing fashion photography shoots. For an art exhibition, however, it just feels tacky.
The exhibition is intended to be pitched somewhere between comedy and tragedy. The photography, as well as the informational signs which accompany it, illustrate (in an annoying, overly-decadent manner) an imagined reality where human beings become obsessed with money, fame and manufactured happiness - the novelty of the theme betwitches.
The most emblematic works within the tiredly-themed lot are both tableaux of larger-than-life characters (as are the majority of the works on display). The first, entitled Family Watching TV, shows a group of obese tracksuit-wearing individuals surrounded by boldly saturated fast-food packaging, and back-dropped by a huge painted barcode. They each wear a Mickey Mouse mask, with the exception of an infant held in the supposed mother’s arms. It is a comment on the corruptive nature of popular culture made without any form of subtlety - so, again, if you are looking for thought-provoking art beyond the obvious, I doubt you will enjoy this piece. This same obvious symbolism is also evident in the huge Last-Supper-turned-Celebrity-Banquet photograph, which replaces Christ and his apostles with characters who have either a god-like cult following, or mythical aura about them: stars like Michael Jackson, Amy Whinehouse, Andy Warhol and such.
The show's content is divided into categories, the first two being Metamorphoses and Hypotheses, whilst the third, Wonderful World, is yet to be produced. It will be done as an on-site gallery shoot, where people are invited to a casting to try out for the role of human prop, in what promises to be the climax of all clichés.
In this exhibition, meaning lies very clearly at surface level, and it makes no attempt to present a nuanced display of the themes on show. It’s a fashionable commentary on anything that is quite easy to deem dangerous in contemporary human behaviour. There is little sense in not stepping in to the gallery if you are in the area. I would advise, though, not to expect anything thought-transforming.