The Sordid Life of Toys

October 10 – February 3, 2009

Roger W. Rogers Gallery

While we like to think of childhood as a time of innocence and adventure, it has a darker side. In childhood we fall prey to a catalogue of fears and terrors. We fear abandonment, we fear darkness, and we fear the imagined creatures under our beds. In his black and white images Raines emphasizes this side of being a child. While the photographs are beautiful, they are also dark and foreboding. The not so oblique reference to a traumatic incident in Disney’s “Bambi,” in Raines’ work “My mother is dead-finish what you started,” exemplifies this approach.

The photographs also seem to critique the process by which young boys are socialized to see and define themselves as masculine beings. They question the cultural construction of masculinity, and its depiction in film and popular culture. Several of the titles could easily have been appropriated straight from a Sergio Leone western, or “Dirty Harry”. By linking them with the iconography of childhood, Raines points out that we expose boys to the portrayal of an aggressive and un-nuanced masculinity from an early age.

In terms of technique and process, Raines takes these images using traditional analog photography techniques, before scanning, manipulating and then printing the images using modern digital technology. Consequently even his process is a dialogue between past and present, nostalgia and the clinical practicality of contemporary technology.

- Andries Fourie

“Disregard How I Feel”, Dennis Raines, 2009, Photo on panel, 11” x 14” x 1.5”

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