Tippee Cup, 2006

The kids in Julie Blackmon's Domestic Vacations at G. Gibson Gallery aren't the type to quietly yield to afternoon naps. In big, rich photographs, the Missouri artist creates scenes of family life ruled by personality and activity, arranging the disarray of daily living into glossy theater.

Blackmon says her inspiration comes largely from 17th-century Dutch and Flemish genre paintings, especially the works of Jan Steen, which depict large family excitement in messy, boisterous tones. There is at times outright homage to Steen: Broken eggshells in the foreground of Blackmon's Birds at Home are a direct reference to Steen's marvelous The Christening Feast. Both artists' pieces are highly staged events, yet manage to include and comment on messy day-to-dayness, too. The grand and the discarded exist simultaneously.

G. Gibson is showing roughly 10 prints in this exhibition; the entirety of Domestic Vacations is more than 30 photographs. The edit is strong. The exhibition is extremely fluid, each charming photograph only a small variant from the next, as if they were snapshots taken on a walk from room to room in a blissfully chaotic, colorful, and bright home. Then there is Tippee Cup, a piece that stands apart, separate from the running narrative.

A woman sprawls across an armchair, a toddler hanging upside down on her lap. Both seem bored as hell. This is the one photograph in Domestic Vacations where the child does not hold forth and demand undivided attention. The woman (of indeterminate age due to styling and pose) is a figure of electrifying curiosity despite her seeming indifference. Steen is nowhere to be found here. In his place is, surprisingly, Balthus, and his posed schoolgirls. There is charged sexuality, daydreams, and fantasy within and apart from the domestic. It is subtly bold, a singularly exceptional work. recommended