Full Disclosure: The World of Ray Cook
Carmel by the Green Gallery
Ray Cook, "Lessons in male bonding", 1999, Archival inkjet print, 35cm x 35cm
Carmel by the Green is excited to exhibit Full Disclosure, the first presentation of work in the UK by Australian photographer Ray Cook, a deeply incisive, honest and idiosyncratic artist. The exhibition, curated by Ashley Lumb, consists of a wide-range of his output from an ever-expanding oeuvre. Starting with some of his earliest photography from the late 1980s – such as the anarchic "When my ship comes in, I’ll be waiting at the airport" – it also includes his visual rumination on the aftermath of AIDS with “At first I was Afraid, I was Petrified” in 2002, as well as a reflection on his changing relationship with the ‘gay-scene’ (and its appropriation by the mainstream) in "Not with a bang but a whimper."
Cook’s tableaux of death and sexuality are delicately balanced with notes of irony, humor and camaraderie. While artifice and theatre are omnipresent – from phallic props to pink-tinted costumery – high camp is subdued by the palpable humanity of his models, almost all friends or acquaintances. There is sufficient disconnect between the garish (often hand-made) scenery and the vulnerable demeanor of his subjects for the real and the fantastical to blend; the outcome a potent distillation of the artists own lived experience.
Cook has noted how photography allows him “to talk about the shifting realities of queer life beyond the expected rhetoric of the press and populist activism.” As these images attest in their assemblage of modes (modern and ancient, silly and serious), he has been able to achieve this in numerous ways. He dissociates the symbolic from the material to reinvest ‘deviant’ sexuality with its inherent humanity, and gently ribs liberalist accounts of the homosexual as victim in his eloquently pragmatic works on the physical and psychic effects of AIDS. He has also taken great pleasure in re-inscribing bawdy homosexuality into antiquity; most evident in his series The History of Love, where he challenges the hold of white, heterosexual, middle-class men over the historical record.
Ray Cook (b. 1962) is a Melbourne-based artist and lecturer in the photography department at RMIT and program manager for their Honours Program. Recent solo exhibitions include: Month of Photography, Minsk (2016); Powerhouse Centre for Live Arts, Brisbane (2016); Queensland Centre for Photography, Brisbane (2014); Krasnodar Centre for Contemporary Art (PhotoVisa Festival), Krasnodar, Russia (2013); Australian Centre for Photography (2011). Recent group shows include: University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane (2015); Crane Arts, Philadelphia, PA (2015); Monash Gallery of Art (2013); Galeria Stanko, Wroclaw, Poland (2011); Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, Mexico (2011).
For further information on Ray Cook visit: https://www.raycook.org