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January 16th, 2008 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Alicia J. Rose at Grass Hut

Alicia J. Rose charges into the woods in her genderfucked Fairytales.

     
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Alicia J. Rose’s Hansel and Gretel

In 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published what has become the world’s best-known collection of adapted European and Middle Eastern fairy tales. Three of these tales—Snow White and the Seven Dwarves , Hansel and Gretel , and Little Red Riding Hood —serve as the springboard for Alicia J. Rose’s new photographic series at Grass Hut, Fairytales . In past work, most notably portraits of Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers and local rockers The Decemberists, Rose has deployed elaborate stagings, flying-leap poses, and supersaturated colors owing more to fashion photography than the grainier, more naturalistic sensibility currently in fine-art vogue. Rose kicks up her signature style several notches in the current show, shot last November on Sauvie Island with a sprawling cast including members of the semi-defunct gender-bending performance troupe Sissy Boys. This fabulous casting call (Splendora, a.k.a. Lee Kyle, as “The Queen” in Snow White ) lends itself quite naturally to the Brothers Grimm stories, which are already replete with deliciously twisted cross-gender/cross-species role play: the Big Bad Wolf masquerading as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother?—I mean, come on, people! It’s a wickedly over-the-top, pointedly de-Disneyfied interpretation. “Fuck Disney,” Rose declaimed at the show’s First Friday opening, “for co-opting the idea of fairy tales!”

Eschewing Photoshop trickery, the photographer achieves a panoply of luscious effects in-camera, most notably in The Poisoning , with its background of rich twilight and preternaturally illuminated foreground recalling Rembrandt’s classic Night Watch . The photo’s multi-person tableau shows off Rose’s significant gifts for stage direction and composition; however, she is less assured in more intimate, one- or two-person vignettes such as Forest Comfort , Lost and The Queen , which could stand a dose of invigoration, perhaps by way of off-kilter angles or a greater sense of motion. Teutonic in timbre—and in timber, witness their Black Forest-like, tree-branch frames—the works pour forth with a Wagner-meets-Fassbinder surfeit, which viewers are apt either to love or hate. I stand in the former camp, although after this glitzed-out extravaganza, I wonder how Rose can possibly top herself. The 1,001 Nights , perhaps?


SEE IT: Grass Hut, 811 E Burnside St., 445-9924. Closes Jan. 28.
 
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