Hunter Barnes and Todd DiCiurcio: Americana No Depression
October 15th - 29, 2014
By KURT MCVEY, OCT. 2014
It’s no secret that Native Peoples in the late 19th and early 20th Century believed that having their photograph taken could potentially steal a piece of their soul. Taking this into account, its difficult to blame the eighty plus tribes shot by Edward S. Curtis - undisputedly the most prolific documentarian of Native culture during the aforementioned period - for showing trepidation in sitting for the photographer. Though critiqued heavily by his once and future contemporaries, primarily for diluting each individual tribe’s particular aesthetic by dressing them in recycled garb, Curtis has emerged, though not unscathed, as something of a national treasure. If this is the case, albeit one that is very much still up for debate, who then has taken up Curtis’ mantle?
An argument could be made for Hunter Barnes, the first outsider since Curtis to be invited into the inner circle of the Nez Perce to document their lives through photographs. Many of these stark and undoctored images will be featured in Americana No Depression, a new show opening October 15th at Melet Mercantile, a vintage gallery and showroom in SoHo, owned and operated by Bob Melet, a larger than life curiosity in his own right and a legend among fashion, art, and antique enthusiasts in New York City and abroad.
The clincher in this particular exhibit is the inclusion of Todd DiCiurcio who will be displaying his “reactions” to Barnes’ photographs directly adjacent to the works themselves. “I sensed the energy that went into these photographs,” says DiCiurcio. “I didn’t have to establish a connection. I felt it.” If the old superstitions were true, one could say that DiCiurcio frees the captured soul from the frozen image, interprets and expresses it in all its raw, wild, and abstract glory. This allows for a much more interesting, perhaps contemporary dialogue to thrive, a feat not so easily accomplished in traditional photography exhibits, where the image lives and dies within the frame. This is not to say that Hunter’s photographs are incapable of standing on their own legs-quite the opposite. They are stunning in their candid beauty, haunting voyeurism, and sturdy composition. With the addition of DiCiurcio’s unique talents however, especially at this particular stage of his career (humble yet boiling over with confidence), Americana No Depression is nothing short of groundbreaking in its approach and execution.
DiCiurcio, though accomplished in multiple mediums, is perhaps best known for his drawings and paintings of The Rolling Stones to The Killers, created live and unceremoniously at rock concerts around the world. DiCiurcio met Barnes at the latter’s 2008 exhibit, The People, at Milk Studios. The two bonded over their shared experience with native sweat lodges in different reservations as well as their mutual love for rock “n” roll and their similarly gonzo yet highly respectful approach to their particular mediums. The two also have a long history with surf and skate culture, always an outsider enterprise. DiCiurcio and his wife Megan own a summer home in Ocean City, NJ that is a lively hub for pro surfers including Luke Ditella, who cites DiCiurcio as an honorary older brother. Hunter’s father is Myers Barnes, a pro skater in the 70’s who opened Barney’s Concrete Curl, one of the first skate parks on the East Coast, near Hunter’s hometown in Kitty Hawk, NC. It was Barnes’ father who bought young Hunter his first camera on a trip to Mexico (a Pentax K1000). Hunter would later use it to document the rare occasion when his dad, the “out-of-place, un-cool old guy” had to school a young punk on the skilled art of the hard drop-in.
It should be mentioned that Native Peoples are not the only subject of Americana No Depression. Also featured are lowrider car clubs, motorcycle clubs, Bloods (the LA based gang), and inmates in maximum-security prisons. “I’ve always been drawn to things and people that are not considered a mainstream part of life,” explains Barnes. “I’ve lived with a lot of different people through the past few years and they’ve all been kind enough to welcome me into their home. Everyone has a different story, but we all have so much in common once we get to know each other.”
Americana No Depression will open October 15th and will be running until October 29th.