Milk Gallery Presents: Kevin Erskine

Last night at Milk Gallery, Kevin Erskine invited New York to witness Mother Nature’s strength in the Midwest. SUPERCELL is a series of photographs documenting the variations of frightening, yet completely hypnotizing, rotating storms of the same name. The crowd at the opening mimicked the swelling energy of Erskine’s enigmatic cross-breezes. Erskine stalks these storms in Tornado Alley between the months of April and June. He first engaged with the phenomenon six years ago and has no intention of rerouting. The forty images on display walked a delicate line between earthly fears and astral glory, deflecting droll notions of Americana. This exhibition is Erskine’s first in New York and will be in the gallery through April 1.

Kevin Erskine is the alter-egos of Dutch photographer Erik Hijweege, generated in tandem with the SUPERCELL series six years ago. Hijweege’s “total focus” on these simultaneously dangerous and enthralling storms necessitated this parallel universe. In his character’s narrative the storms are dually fascinating and rivaled, which is not entirely far from the truth. The photographs appear from the foreign lands of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Texas, to name a few. Erskine’s wide-angled shots composed with a Linhoff 617 camera create skyscapes so epic one might forget how threatening they are. Clouds consume sky and civilization. Although grey skies immediately summon War of the Worlds (2005) and other apocalyptic fantasies, Erskine’s images are interplanetary. Rich crimson, violet, auburn, and cerulean are a natural reaction from intermingling hot and cold winds, arresting in their painterly quality. Song Chong, curator at Milk Gallery, chose to display the works unframed on dibond, further engaging the expansive and obscure nature of these images. In her curation, a desire to “recreate an ethereal space within the picture plane” prompted a slew of diptychs and large-format reproductions in the space.

Video documentation of Erskine’s excursions occupied a small space near the stairwell and provided an urgent contrast to the decadent photographs. Blazing sirens were accompanied by incessant weather updates tracking the storm. Erskine’s video is a reminder that incredible hazards loom beyond each graceful image. Despite pressing time constraints in every instant of shooting, Erskine’s photographs are gallant. He inserts awe where unbridled fear should be. Leaving the exhibition, I was oddly envious of Erskine’s regular confrontation with such aggressive atmospheres and planetary powers. When’s the last time you were terrified, astounded, and peaceful all at once?

Photos by: Maria Maltsava

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