Updated: Oct 17, 2018
The photographs of Hrvoje Slovenc are partly molded by his immigration from Croatia to the United States and the accumulated social attitudes from an outsider’s perspective, as they also are by the formal models of Yale mentors Gregory Crewdson and Philip Lorca diCorcia. A master’s degree in biochemistry from The University of Zagreb in 2000 prior to emigrating here to pursue a passion for photography perhaps led him to exactly the sort of understated link between appearances and relationships and the social attitudes that underlie them, codifying and commingling the degree of meaning that is unseen except after long study.
“Home Theater” presents a series of photographic narratives with its characters mainly absent. The spaces are charged with an off-stage dramaturgy that is revealed as the daily and ritualistic practice of S&M. The role-playing becomes more important than the terminology as we are made to understand that the setting, combined with the aesthetic fetishizing of all places and appearances leads the viewer to a greater understanding of what intimacy means. Certainly these roles, magnified by the specificity of their role in sexual gratification, exist in otherwise “normal” situations, though they are nebulous and undefined, relating to the social relationship extending beyond private quarters rather than between two people with desires that do not mix with their communal roles outside the home.
One photograph, titled October Bliss depicts a room that contains a wildlife mural like something out of a 1950s issue of Field and Stream: deer and ducks frolicking in the tall grass. In front sits a low-slung office chair with manacles hung from the ceiling on either side, just above shoulder height. The room has drawn curtains with a single bare bulb on one side surrounded by neat stacks and obsessive piles of hundreds of books. The empty chair suggests the seated person may be subject to either humiliation or inculcation. In Squeaks Clean we are presented with an image of a basement, replete with the meters that measure electricity and heat in the house above, and a copse of standing mops, their heads up, looking like a clique of whispering teenagers. A black metal pole bisects the image into two planes, with an ominous pile of full black garbage bags directly behind it, and a makeshift bed made from a thick wood table. Tea Blessing presents a triptych of a crumbled bed with ornate chinoiserie sheets, cupboards filled with fine china bowls arranged with obsessive orderliness, and between them, a naked man facing toward the far wall, his back covered in scars presumably from beatings.
Slovenc is fascinated with the hidden world of socialized interaction, in which minute details that make up a perverted domesticity are the dramaturgical chemistry of our real vitality. His “Home Theater” provides a close look into the subversive sexual world, not as symptom of everyday reality, but as the decoration of it.