Hamburger Eyes is a photo magazine and a collective of photographers and wise-guys that travel the world capturing images that could easily accompany the phrase "Check this out." The flashing of a photo of your drunken friend in an Elvis wig, for example, might follow your version of that phrase. My version of that phrase would lead to me digging up a photo I have of my mom standing next to a sunglasses-wearing donkey and a Rastafarian.
Surprisingly, Hamburger Eyes' version of something worth checking out is very similar to what yours or mine might be, no matter who we think we are. The photos range from raunchy to funny to cute to disturbing and are mostly shot in black and white. They are installed at Steven Wolf Fine Arts floor-to-ceiling in a continuous clump, as if someone took a huge stack of small and medium framed photographs and tossed them with centrifugal force at the wall until they stuck. Though crowded, the installation's flow is very lyrical, as Hamburger Eyes' main contributor has said. As your eyeballs ricochet from one picture to the next, your brain quickly processes the images and moves on. In a matter of nanoseconds, you might see photos of a car crash, a seaside house built to look like a whale, a group of seriously inebriated partygoers, a man in a banana suit, and a pile of newborn puppies.
Gallery shows are usually sparse and many exhibits have just a few pieces to look at. I'm beginning to prefer the style that Hamburger Eyes employs where the viewer is inundated with hundreds of images to try and make sense of. It's the second recent installation I've seen literally crammed onto a gallery wall in a way that is visually stimulating and satisfying. Art mirrors life, and life is jam-packed with stuff, so it's ironically comforting to see the same hysterically busy feeling that everyday life invokes displayed on a gallery wall.
The work of Ray Potes and his fellow San Francisco-based documentarians (his brother, David Potes, Uri Korn, Ted Pushinsky, and Stefan Simikich, among others) does not seem to focus on fancy printing and lighting techniques, nor does it seem to be concerned with high-concept composition. Their work is about the realities of life. Not staged reality, just plain old 35mm photographic reality snapped at just the right time, when you had to be there to really comprehend the situation. Lucky for us, these guys are absolutely dedicated to being there and showing us pictures of what we missed out on. This is not to say that all the scenes in Hamburger Eyes' photos are unbelievable -- many are ordinary, yet still captivating, especially in the installation format.
Hamburger Eyes' Web site is addictive and is updated weekly with photos, videos, hip San Francisco happenings, and information about "all kinds of more stuff if you aren't sick of stuff yet," as one of their recent postings states. And if their casual, grammar-less, too-cool-for-school writing gets you hooked, check out their cross-promoting pals at Fecal Face dot com -- disgusting name, fantastic arts scene coverage.
Hamburger Eyes: The Odyssey is at Steven Wolf Fine Arts through September 30,2006.