The Basement Gallery
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Robert Rainey

b i o
robert rainey is currently a mfa candidate in photography at the university of new mexico, albuquerque. prior to his studies at unm he was awarded a graduate teaching fellowship at virginia commonwealth university. rainey has recently left the corporate world of marketing, having served as senior vp of marketing at redenvelope and vp of creative advertising at miramax films. he art-directed dozens of miramax’s promotional campaigns from ‘pulp fiction’ to ‘good will hunting’. rainey began his career by earning a bfa from risd in graphic design, and at this stage of his career is very pleased to be returning to the arena of academia in order to pursue his own ideas through more personal projects.


t w o   w a y
brief description of the conceptual basis of the work

two way explores notions of class, race, gender and sexual identity. I am beginning to question: are any of us truly that special? or are we merely products of our environment in an increasingly global culture? and what happens when you subvert the notion of diversity by contrasting it with absolute conformity? as the formal device for this series, i pair myself with one other person. the overall effect is that of a series of 'couples'. and quite literally, i am exploring the inherent dichotomy within a pairing of subjects. thus the title, 'two-way'. and yet, once again, i am attempting to subvert the traditional genre of couples portraiture by inserting myself as the generic, blank, antiseptic, counterpart to a person who is portraying themself as a 'unique entity'. i am an actor, a performer; the iconic 'everyman', while each of them is the star of their own world.

physical and technical project description
for this installation, i am employing the formal device of mounting each photo within a light-box. shown here is a preliminary mock-up installation, which I did in preparation for the show. each box is such that a 2-way mirror covers the image, rendering the image invisible when the light is not turned on. the viewer is able to turn the light box on and off by means of a simple pull-chain hanging from the bottom of each box. this formal device is intended to give the viewer the experience of seeing first themselves in the mirror of the box, and then witnessing the image emerge into view once the chain is pulled. In this way, the viewer experiences themself being 'replaced' by the image. essentially, the viewer is given the experience of 'dissolving' as the portrait emerges and comes forward.


w a l m a r t i f i c a t i o n
brief description of the conceptual basis of the work
i am continuing my effort to investigate the many unexamined assumptions within the genre of american portraiture in a new series of portraits taken at my local wal-mart portrait studio. as i am increasingly aware of the viewer's desire to assume that i am art-directing my photographs, i realized that there could be no better way to avoid that claim by employing the antithesis of artifice and stylistic manipulation.
inasmuch as wal-mart has entered the cultural lexicon of mass-marketization, it is unsettling to realize that there are thousands of portrait studios, identical to the one in my local store, dotting the entire country. we are witnessing the zenith of homogenization for the country's middle class portraiture vernacular. it is also fascinating that in a country of egoic drives and self-serving appetites, the irony of capturing one's 'identity' vis-à-vis a photographic portrait, is rendered so anonymous and de-personalized by the sheer volume of nearly-identical images.
the only variations possible within this uniform "frame" are an assortment of generic stools (in varying heights), several "personalizing" props, such as stuffed animals and sports equipment, and the all-important backdrop. all of these in total suggest that these are all the variables necessary to effectively support the identify of absolutely anyone who might enter the studio.
of course, the most informative cue as to the identity of the subject is the pose and facial expression. And yet there appear to be about as many options here as there are sporting balls.

physical and technical project description
in an effort to expose the inherently ironic limitations of this convention, i have taken it upon myself to spend time in my local Wal-Mart Portrait Studio and study its patrons. i have befriended the studio photographer and enlisted her help for my project. after successfully convincing her that i was not a nut case, she has become an enthusiastic assistant to my process. upon observing an actual wal-mart customer have his/her/their portrait taken, i then enter the studio and she and i "recreate" the previous portrait with as much precision as possible: same backdrop, same props, same pose, and same expression. in the case of a group photo, we simply leave the other party's seats empty.
i am also attempting to depict the passage of time by way of allowing my clean-shaven face to go unshaven from image to image. this is the one cue as to the "identity" of the generic actor/artist.
i find the results quite compelling. the images as a group are immediately familiar yet unsettling; humorous yet sad. the recurrence of a single generic 'actor' (in this case myself) creates a kind of pathos from the realization that there is actually very little that separates us.