One of the edited images, angel9.jpg purposefully offers a clue: the patches outline the form of a reclining woman, with two circles for breasts, atop the kind of printed polyester bedcover you find in all but the most expensive hotels.
Of course, I've read the press release, I know why I'm looking at these images, and I know what's being suggested by a title like lez0003.jpg. Tempe artist John Haddock has pulled the images from amateur pornography sites on the Internet, then carefully removed the images' subjects, semi-artfully patching over the gaps so we see only rumpled bed sheets or an ottoman with a dimpled surface where once lied some guy's adventurous wife.
Aside from the female form discernible in angel9.jpg, the images rarely suggest what kind of activity is going on, and the titles tend to obscure the matter. The images bear a vague glow of licentiousness, instead of suggesting specific activities; we know something dirty is going on, but we don't know what. So the eye is drawn instead to the settings of these activities: painfully normal, tastelessly decorated rooms photographed by people with no eye for framing images.
By removing the ostensible subjects, Haddock recasts these images as documentary views into the homes of ordinary people--well, ordinary people with a desire to share their sex lives with uncountable anonymous viewers. But these rooms betray little kinkiness: they're drearily mundane (if you leave out the room with a long mirror mounted alongside the bed).
What these bring to mind, as much as anything, are the voyeuristic images of the insides of rich folks' houses in upscale, small-circulation "shelter" magazines like World of Interiors, Nest, and Metropolitan Home. These are their cheap-rent equivalents: their viewers don't ooh and ahh over the knit afghans and veneered A/V units the way Metropolitan Home subscribers do over Sub Zero refrigerators and Ligne Roset couches, of course, but the impulse is similar.
The appeal of amateur porn is its direct link to real people with real lives; its customers prefer to see naked shop clerks and waitresses instead of women with names like Porsche and Jasmine. Amateur porn websites feel real--painfully, inartistically so. Take the naked people out of them and you're still a voyeur, but instead of a spread-eagled housewife you're spying on an ornamental Kleenex box, a couch with sagging springs, a bare fluorescent light tube. As much as any documentary photographer with an interest in the lower-middle-class, Haddock shows us a very real, very contemporary world.
A different order of reality is on view in a set of 3D works by the artist. Drawn from TV, rather than the Internet, these sculptures revisit major news stories of this decade. Conceived of as spin-off toys, the objects re-enact the Rodney King beating, the Reginald Denny beating during the L.A. riots, the Simpson murder trial, and the Susan Smith murder trial. They're like Star Wars action figures for real-life dramas.
The cops beating King become green army men. In the Reginald Denny piece, a lone man in gangsta garb is seen from above, dancing alone in the corner--Denny, the recipient of his kick, is not represented, allowing multiple readings of the figure's pose. The angle from which you view the figure is set by the way he appeared on TV: as seen from a helicopter flying over the city.
A pair of dioramas reconstruct Susan Smith's two stories explaining the disappearance of her children; first the story about a lone black gunman stopping her car at a stoplight, then her confession of locking her children in the car before rolling it into a lake. A different set of complicated, unknowable truths show up in the Simpson figurines: a glove-holding Mark Fuhrman, Simpson, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Kato Kaelin stand facing a knife; both Simpson and Fuhrman have holes in their molded hands which would allow the figurines to hold the knife. The tensions which animated the stories behind these figures don't quite translate to the toys.
The compelling mysteries of Haddock's Internet images show he's capable of finding drama in mundanity, but his 3D work with already dramatic material lacks the clear focus and intentions of his Internet work. The pieces are what they're intended to be--cheap souvenirs of human tragedies--but the critique at their core is softened by the natural inexpressiveness of their forms. I'd like to see what a photographer practiced at drawing drama out of toy figurines--say David Levinthal or Laurie Simmons--could do to reinsert some life into these primal scenes.