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Published in Frieze Magazine, November 2015 ( Issue 175, p. 170 )
The exhibition in fact contains images of two expanses of parched wilderness, wisely paired and thousands of miles apart: one photographed by John Riddy, the other drawn by James Castle. Their respective haunts were South Africa’s jagged Cape Peninsula, a spur of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean that the British-born Riddy has roamed over for decades, and Idaho, where the deaf and illiterate Castle, an artist of disarming gifts, was born in 1899 and remained until his death, 78 years later. Together, they map communities from their most desolate edges to provide documents of these places that are difficult to decipher and reverberate with mutually ghoulish history.
Published in Artforum, October 2015
In the abstract, it seems merely provocative to pair John Riddy’s recent photographs of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula with drawings by the self-taught American artist James Castle. Riddy is a British photographer of exquisite technical precision, while Castle, deaf and illiterate, worked in almost complete obscurity until his death in 1977, turning found materials such as packing boxes and kitchen twine into sculpture, books, and drawings.
These pieces share a vocabulary of barns, gables, pilons, and power lines; yet in both, banal subjects viewed dead-on can remain strangely unknowable…Of course, this pairing shatters expectations of photographic objectivity or “outsider” subjectivity, but better yet, the formal enigmas of Riddy’s floating trailers and Castle’s squiggle symbols will find their partners if one looks close enough.
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