Do opposites attract? Or are they like chalk and cheese? And can things be the same but different? With Strange Bedfellows, just about every combination seems possible.
On one wall are the contrasts. Sebastian Rich’s “Homeless child Somalia” is paired with Nino Gehrig’s “Cooking 2008”. One child bordering on starvation, the other proudly displaying a cake made from a mountain of sugary sweets.
And George Kavanagh’s diver plunging perfectly into a pool hangs uneasily alongside Rich’s shot of a U.S. marine letting a hooded and restrained Iraqi prisoner of war drink from a jerry-can.
Food and water. Two essentials of life common to everyone. The haves and the have-nots. One of the great divides in the world. The problem is that the way the images are put together feels clichéd. Not so much strange bedfellows as obvious contrasts that are predictably poles apart.
While one side of the gallery explores suffering, the other could be seen as being more about sexuality. Here, Sue Golden’s curation of work from the London Photographic Association and Gallery 1839 is much more deft.
Now you start to see the bedfellows. Couplings that look like they are suited rather than being forced together to make a point. And the strangeness is more subtle.
Julie Cook’s “A.J. Men of Sapphire” could be a classic gay icon in his shorts and chaps. While Sukey Parnell’s “Johnny in Tu-tu” is equally fit and rippling, he looks somehow less sure of himself, perhaps bordering on shy of his physique.
Ginger Liu’s study of Fever Blister in her kitchen is beautifully brassy burlesque. Ilya van Marle’s “Dolly Twins 2008” is also deliciously domestic but considerably more coy. Now your eye is caught by the wigs and the iron and the almost matching girdles.
So one half of the exhibition is chalk and cheese. The other is same but different. But do all these oppositions attract? Not entirely, but there’s no denying that the strangeness does have some appeal.
Strange Bedfellows part 2 can be seen at The Assembly Rooms, 8 Silver Place, Soho, London W1F 0JU. The exhibition is open 10am-5pm Monday to Friday, November 3 to 19.