The Birdhouse is showing a new photography exhibition for the month of January from Carl Gunhouse, who’s been spending the better part of a decade compiling photographs of hardcore punk shows. Born in suburban New Jersey, now based in Brooklyn, Gunhouse presents Suburban Youth as a composition of only two large prints: one of a suburban neighborhood and another a composite of 42 smaller photographs, teeming with young white male aggression (I spotted a total of five women)—kids dying to piss off their moms from 1993-2010.
Caught in Gunhouse’s lens are members of such bands as Murphy’s Law, Kill Your Idols, Agnostic Front, and Ensign, along with throngs of fans in various stages of ecstasy and elation; the crowds are as necessary to the spirit of the photographs as the musicians on stage, or on the floor. What unites these photos more than microphones and guitars are the repeated images of release—bodies in the air, mouths gaping, arms flung wide—and presenting them as Gunhouse does, small photographs side-by-side, brings those feelings to the forefront, showing some success at beating back the celebrity he showcases.
In opposition to the club shots (literally—the two prints are centered on the two large, opposing walls of the Birdhouse) is a single print of a cracker-box house, complete with beige siding and fake blue shutters, what looks to be the first home in a new development. The house sits, utterly alone with an unfinished lawn, mounds of gravel about, and in the background plots of land are marked off with long white poles. The sky above is ample, and heavy with darkening clouds.
So suburbia’s not all it was supposed to be, of course, but Gunhouse’s exhibition is disappointing if read as a simple narrative of suburbia’s failings. And although some of these bands were born of the same suburban youths as Gunhouse’s, many of these performances still take place in the urban playground of New York City, muddying the equation. (Gunhouse has another series that focuses on small green spaces and the detritus found there—bottles, condoms, road kill—proving once again that, like urban parks and alleys, any public space partially obscured from view, especially at night, will be taken advantage of.) But more than cause and effect, Gunhouse’s Suburban Youth can be satisfyingly viewed as two portraits—one physical, one emotional—of suburbia, interrupted.
Less aggressive, but nevertheless arresting, are the photographs on display upstairs at the Emporium. Set almost entirely on the island of Taiwan, the decadent, magazine-style prints would make you weep if they were relegated to pages that small. For novelty and frightening dedication, check out the landscapes shot by helicopter from Chi Po-lin. Then there’s Huang Ting-sheng’s capturing of the ground-level havoc of fireworks, set off in the name of spirits and goddesses. But expect to spend most of your time lingering over Lu Chen-hsiang’s series covering the performing arts: the transformative application of makeup before an opera, the perfect framing of a puppet show, and a stage full of dancers in seductive silhouette.