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For a show at Rachel Uffner three years ago, Barb Choit collected posters of highly stylized women rendered by Patrick Nagel—a commercial artist from the 1970s and 1980s whose graphic work graced the cover of Duran Duran’s album Rio—and subjected them to ultraviolet rays from a tanning bed as well as lamps and bleach, then photographing the faded outcomes. This summer she fitted the front windows of Rawson Projects with colored background paper, testing the material’s lightfastness by exposing sheets to the sun for up to 744 hours before pulling them off to display. For her current exhibition, Fade Diary, Choit turned her camera toward assorted posters from storefront windows (hair salons, barber shops, bodegas, travel agencies) throughout northern Brooklyn, posters whose colors have slowly, over the years, become victims of solar entropy.
Untitled Faded Beauty (Heart Pendant) (all works 2012) comes closest to the Nagel series: the model’s blanched skin and clothes give an illustrational look to the original cosmetological photograph. Black scuff marks on glass mar the face of a woman with Nico bangs in Untitled Faded Beauty (Greenpoint Windows), the entire image drained of all color except cyan, but sunlight has only begun to bleach the moussed and teased Untitled Faded Beauty (NYPD #2), whose piercing blue eyes and red leather glove punctuate her contemporary look. Sunlight is the source of photography, of course, but it’s also a degenerative force.
Choit’s formal experimentation and her choice of subjects produce social commentary in unexpected ways. You might identify a resemblance between police mug shots and the barbershop posters in five works, such as Barbershop Fade #8, that enumerate a gridded typology of clipper cuts for men and boys. You also might think old posters symbolize the decline of small businesses effected by gentrification or chain stores. But what if the salon owner is too busy, or has little need, to replace outmoded decor? Thinking of Dorian Gray’s portrait, it’s possible that a poster fades while the community thrives.