Take Justine Kurland, whose large-scale photos of young girls in the woods have a sweet, playful grandeur and a painter's feel for the buttery warmth of sunlight. Kurland imagines a group of pretty runaways gathered in an Edenic forest, bathing, primping, communing with nature and one another: adolescent Alices lost in a Hudson Valley wonderland. Kurland's vision of the band of outsiders as carefree citizens of a new world of girls pervades the show, where young women rule, if not always with such unrestrained joy. British phenom Sarah Jones finds one emerging from under her bed in a room with flowered drapes and grass green carpeting her own private garden. Malerie Marder discovers another in a bikini, stretched out voluptuously on an inflated raft, drifting in a pool at night like some momentarily silenced siren. Jenny Gage, who went looking for female drifters in California, places one in a melting light at the side of a road; another, her back to us, looks out the open doorway of a room whose drapes block the sun. And Katy Grannan, who advertised for girls between the ages of 18 and 22 in a Poughkeepsie newspaper, photographs her subjects in their favorite rooms, often in their underwear, sometimes nude, always disconcertingly radiant and ripe.
As constructs of femininity, these are deliberately anti-iconic (even if Gage slyly echoes Sherman's stills persona), coolly nuanced, and so smart. The other pieces here by Dana Hoey, Vibeke Tandberg, Jita Hanzlova, Gabriel Brandt, Sarah Dobai, and Dyanita Singh hover similarly between fact and fiction, their female subjects playing themselves in dramas of anxiety, alienation, defiance, camaraderie, self-sufficiency, love, and loss. Invited to believe, encouraged to doubt, we hesitate before the work's studied ambiguity, then plunge in. Resistance is not only futile, it's foolish.