Holly Andres
Sparrow Lane

October 23 — December 6, 2008


Holly Andres's first solo exhibition in New York will feature photographs from the series Sparrow Lane, including the debut of new works in the series. Displaying a rich understanding of color and composition, Andres's tableaux depict young women on the threshold of adulthood, propelled by their curiosity and sense of discovery. Sparrow Lane is a strange yet familiar world filled with floral wallpapers, satin dresses, vanity mirrors, and family photos in gilded frames — the trappings of adolescence in a bygone age.

Drawing equally upon Hitchcockian cinematic tropes and Nancy Drew dust jackets, Andres's stunning photographs plumb psychological depths that are as quixotic as they are visually seductive. Her protagonists seem caught in states of hyper-self-consciousness: suspicious of watching eyes out of frame, their stiff gestures betray their vulnerability. On the brink of discovery — at that awkward age when one is no longer a child, but not yet fully an adult — these heroines appear as much posed as poised. Their snooping is comprised of small transgressions borne of a strong dose of curiosity, incidents along the way to some personal revelation.

Here at Sparrow Lane mirrors, birdcages, spilt milk, secret passageways, skeleton keys and hidden objects abound. Andres's use of familiar iconography hints at possible meanings in these not-quite-hard-boiled dramas. Like in gothic fiction, the landscapes and architecture are coded spaces, full of mystery and surprises. But Andres's playful staging and luscious colors temper any ominous undertones. The accumulated series suggests elliptical narratives, but any resolution is elusive; the pleasure of viewing instead draws upon the photograph's allusive and metaphorical qualities — all revealed in Technicolor.

Sparrow Lane is Holly Andres's first exhibition with Robert Mann Gallery. She recently had a solo exhibition at Quality Pictures Contemporary Art in Portland, Oregon. Her previous body of work, Stories from a Short Street, was exhibited earlier this year at the Missoula Art Museum. Andres was included in the 2006 Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum and her films have been featured in numerous film festivals. She is a professor at Portland State University, and lives in Portland, Oregon.

Time Out New York
October 30, 2008
Medium Cool: The Best in Photography

Intensely hued prints reveal a series of scenes that look part Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, part Eloise. The artist's vividly colored photographs, reminiscent of scenes directed by Alfred Hitchcock, depict their charming young female protagonists as simultaneously eager to explore the world and wary of its latent dangers.

New York Magazine
November 19, 2008
Emma Pearse

Holly Andres might be the slightly crazy girl who always shows up to your stoop sale in search of the gaudiest objects you can't believe anyone would pay for. Andres takes these objects and transforms her own house into the sort of horror-tinged scenes that would have drawn froth from Lewis Carroll's mouth. Here, we're seeing a book jacket for a nonexistent Nancy Drew novel: The Case of the Spilled Milk. Andres's bonbon-hued photographs are up at Robert Mann Gallery through December 6.

Art in America
December 2008
Sue Taylor

Trained as a painter, Portland artist Holly Andres has found her true métier in photograph and film. Her new photographic series, "Sparrow Lane" (2007-08), focuses entirely on four girls, shown doggedly sleuthing in the manner of Nancy Drew and her Chums. Clad in party dresses or shirts and sweaters with white hose, these fair-haired friends explore a world of satin, lace and patterned wallpaper, pursuing obscure mysteries as they search a house upstairs and down. The 11 skillfully stages and manipulated images are eerily beautiful with vivid, saturated hues and hallucinogenic detail.

What secret does the house hold? That the enigma is a sexual one we surmise from Andres's playful symbolism in Outside the Forbidden Bedroom, where two girls open a locked door with the insertion of a golden key. With this artful cliché, Andres tips us to the allegorical significance of her story, and we hunt for deeper meanings. The girls' quest, we suspect, is ultimately for self-knowledge; like all children, they probably wonder "where do I come from?"

The bedroom, as the site of conception, may yield an answer to this question of origins. Once inside the chamber, a girl seated near a dressing table intently scissors open a velvet throw pillow as others look on. Curiosity about the maternal body is here metaphorically indulged, while outdoors two blondes kneel on the lawn to examine The Golden Pillow, its cottony insides exposed. The composition resembles a Nativity, in which Andres's youthful investigators ponder the miracle of birth. Pink blossoms litter the ground, hinting at the girls' waning springtime innocence.

In the basement, twins discover an empty bird cage. One aims a flashlight inside it; the other glances up, searching for The Missing Bird. Two cats lurking in the shadows, possible perps, escape their notice. It is a charming image of naiveté whose latent content — given the long-standing symbolic link between an empty birdcage and the loss of virginity — might involve sexual awakening. Upstairs, the girls explore wondrous cubbyholes and drawers — read womblike spaces — sometimes leaving hallways strewn with snippets of hair and the telltale scissors. Ladders and stairs recur, evokking Freud's interpretation of staircase dreams as scenes of sexual activity. Indeed, in The Ruby Ring, an older dirl on a carpeted stairway studies the eponymous treasure, a symbol for the female genitals, while her younger sister gazes down from the landing above. Andres subtly and wittily acknowledges the possibility of such covert meanings with Behind the Old Painting, where the girls peek behind a framed portrait in the living room: similarly, beneath every manifest scene in Sparrow Lane a secret content awaits curious viewers striving to uncover it.

Critic’s Pick
Micol Hebron

Holly Andres's first solo exhibition at this gallery features fifteen large LightJet prints distinguished by their luscious palette and meticulous mise-en-scènes. The images recall an unlikely combination of sources, such as Sofia Coppola, Gregory Crewdson, and Nancy Drew, and depict a quartet of girls — perhaps cousins, sisters, or BFFs — making extraordinary discoveries within a middle-class suburban home. Andres's scenes conjure plotlines and allegories from familiar fairy tales and proverbs, but they are unsentimental and not excessive in their girlishness. The protagonists appear simultaneously charming and empowered as they mischievously explore the confines of a home that is fraught with Freudian connotations. The girls peer and pry into many yonic talismans from daily life that represent the precipice of womanhood: a red purse, a sliced-open pillow, a birdcage, a locket, and a keyhole. In The Glowing Drawer, 2008, a girl kneels before an open drawer that emanates light from within as two other girls watch nervously in the foreground. In Secret Portal, 2008, three of the girls venture like Alice into two secret doorways in a hallway. The scenes are rich with the pleasure and discovery that characterizes adolescent life, when so many small things have profound and often personal significance. Andres's pictures offer a delightfully puckish complement to the patriarchal precedents of constructed narrative tableaux and are elegant successors to the feminist works of Pictorialist foremothers such as Gertrude Käsebier.

Once Upon a Time – Exit 33
Excerpt from Down The Rabbit-Hole Redux
Martha Langford

Adult constructions of the child coming of age are reenacted across this collection from two psychologically separated perspectives, both understood as realms of memory. Freud's analysis of screen memories (1899) builds on this distinction: field memories are experienced as though reoccurring before the eyes of the person remembering; observer memories are experienced as though the person remembering were watching himself or herself; field memories are associated with a higher degree of feeling — think of them as first-person narrations; observer memories are more detached — the self becomes an observable actor participating in events; field memories, whether recent or emotional, lend themselves to vivid narration; observer memories, which tend to be older and less intense are also more descriptive. Translating a bounded mental image into a photographic point-of-view is a snap. More complex and interesting are attempts to express the neither-here-nor-there of field and observer memories combined. Combination creates transitional moments, or liminal spaces, which artists such as Holly Andres and Ute Begrend have adopted as metaphors for that elusive concept "growing up."

Andres's Sparrow Lane (2008) sites adolescence between personal and cultural memory, setting her four female protagonists on a psychological path inspired by representations of the fictional character Nancy Drew (an American girl detective) and afterimages of Alfred Hitchcock's suspense thrillers. Highly mannered, cast with pretty young things, and "styled" to fashion industry standards, Andres's tableaux are pictures about looking. The anachronistically girly models fit the Cindy Sherman Untitled mould — though stealthy in their behavior they are felt to be observed. At the same time, their poses are all about tracking, stumbling upon, peeking under, or nervously uncovering, and those who are not staring intently at some meaningful object are the designated look-outs, protecting their sneaky confederates by staring out into the unknown. An insistence on looking and being seen allows fanciful spectators to project themselves into the work, while voyeuristically standing apart. This is not an entirely enjoyable experience; one is reminded of the malevolent little sister in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement (2001) — a doer of great harms because of something she thought she saw. One can distrust and dislike Andres's sleuths as robotic little show-offs, weak sisters of the Alpha Girls that Angela Grossman's collages bring chillingly to life.