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Terry Richardson—mustachioed and thumbs-upped impresario of the blown out, dirty, hipster-glam photos that have become his signature—brightens the northern stretch of La Cienega with Terrywood. Held at OHWOW Gallery, it's the photographer's first Los Angeles solo show.
The slick finish of the 25 C-prints serve to heighten Hollywood's banal and overlooked corners. Richardson takes the neighborhood's otherwise nasty streets and glowing peep-show signage and cleans them up with polished, vivid compositions and flash-bulb precision. Not unlike his studio portraits, Richardson's vision of Hollywood is stripped of context, and the photos purposefully displace the essential liveliness of the neighborhood and its streets.
We know his subject is Hollywood because we know the city and its icons. Richardson's images rely on viewers having this knowledge to give some semblance of narrative substance to the pictures. The gallery's exterior Terrywood signage is done in the style of the classic Hollywood sign. The outrageously egomaniacal display of ten Oscar trophies are cast with Richardson's gleeful, bald, spectacled face. And we surely know the taste of the colorful piles of In-and-Out burgers all too well. Yet in all this, the breathing, fleshy substance of the figures that populate his commercial print work and online photo diary are largely absent. In this barren Terrywood landscape, we actually longed for Richardson's portraits of people—whether scantily clad, designer dressed, or traipsing around on everyday life's dreamy paths. Instead, we saw empty images of neon signs, pieces of the body (a zoomed-in photo of a blonde's darkened roots appears rather vulvic) or faces miniaturized (as in the oversize collage of actors' casting shots). In another collage of tiny pictures of every star on the Hollywood Walk, you'll find Richardson's sneaker-shod foot carefully covering parts of a star's name, revealing singular, sex-charged words.
The gallery was surprisingly busy when we visited, with a curious audience of slouchy skater boys in skinny jeans, plaid shirts and Terry-like glasses wandering around with pale, bruised girls wearing short shorts, teased hair and pouty red lips. We rolled our eyes at first. But then we realized they brought to life the lasciviously youthful Hollywood we've come to know through Richardson's ubiquitous commercial work—and that which was all too absent in the pictures on display. And then we loved them for it.
Terrywood is up through March 30.