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Nan Goldin, “Jens’ Hand on Clemens’ Back, Paris, 2001,” cibachrome print

I just added a review of Nan Goldin’s massive collection of post-Ballad photography, The Devil’s Playground, to the Selected Writings page. This review originally appeared in SPOT, Fall 2005.

Fans of Goldin’s work have had nearly 25 years to watch her career skyrocket and lull, and through her photographs, to watch her and her extended family grow. It is more than a little depressing, then, to see her continue to struggle with her drug addictions in these recent works. After all these years, it feels as if we are seeing reruns, or at the least, a destructive cycle set in an endless spin. Even Brian, the abusive villain of Ballad of Sexual Dependency, makes a few appearances The Devil’s Playground; and it is impossible not to feel a disappointment that his presence lingers in her life. If in art we look for redemption and solace, we might yield to the title of Goldin’s new book. As romantically tragic as her photographs are, more so than ever before, the artist and her subjects remain trapped in a purgatorial playground where they cyclically reenact the same pleasures and the same pains while the audience watches on, devastated by the presentation but hungry for progress.


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