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Archive for September, 2007

lutter.jpgArtkrush decorated their last newsletter with German photographer Vera Lutter‘s camera obscura image of San Marco. The picture has all the inverted elegance of a film negative with its shadows that gleam and bright sunlight that turns black. But Lutter’s images are about more than just light and dark. Standard photographs are instantaneous; Lutter‘s are taken over days, even months, which introduces time and space as new elements.

There are no passersby in Lutter’s photos, just buildings, ghost towns. Architecture and landscape persist, sit long and hard, burn shadows, while people pass through without a trace—although she admits in a great interview with BOMB Magazine that a tenacious sunbather made an imprint in one of her shorter exposures.

Lutter’s prints are large, often wall size.  One of her cameras was actually a shipping container. She talks about sitting in the camera at one point, watching the image projected on the wall: “The fast movements don’t stay in the photograph, but I see the cars driving through the image, I see trains, boats going by, birds and airplanes flying through. It’s like watching a film, but the image is reversed, upside down, and very crisp.” In some ways, her images resemble the theater photographs of Sugimoto where an entire movie over the period of a few hours leaves nothing but a glowing white screen.

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malakoff.jpgIf you’re not familiar with the art magazine Esopus you should definitely take a look. Editor Tod Lippy runs the publication without advertising and still manages to create a beautifully designed object that travels well outside the physical and conceptual idea of a magazine.

Between its glossy covers, lies a 3-dimensional world, as if the pages just can’t contain themselves. Long fold-out accordions of artist’s work tumble out. Highlights from a 40-year-old correspondence between a MOMA curator and an artist are reprinted, the pages interspersed with reproductions of their actual letters on flimsy paper with splotchy vivid inks. Mathematician John Conway contributes notes on how to make a polyhedron complete with ready to assemble paper cutouts. And each issue contains a CD on the back inside cover with contributions from musicians.

Esopus comes out twice a year and when it arrives on your doorstep, opening it and turning the pages is like Christmas. The New York Times reviewed the magazine a while back.

All of this just to say that the upcoming issue features an interesting photographer, Sarah Malakoff, who takes pictures of interiors. Empty New England interiors without people, and yet the rooms are filled with their owner’s presence. The overwhelming wallpaper patterns lining every inch of a staircase, the Monopoly game on the table, the knitted afghan thrown over a couch, the LL Bean jackets hanging from a wall rack. Viewing each photo becomes an exercise in trying to decipher the clues left behind by the inhabitants. In many ways, taking pictures of empty, yet lived-in interiors is the same as taking a picture of a person.

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reflection.jpgThis morning I spent two hours over at the Alemany Flea Market, sifting through old photos. Having done this for a few years now, I realize there’s an entire ritual and psychology around it.

I move through the stalls quickly, trying not to get distracted, eyes on the prowl for boxes with snapshots, vintage post cards or cabinet cards sticking out.

My heart beats a little faster if I find a booth where the owner obviously doesn’t care much about photos; he or she might have found a collection of snapshots in an estate sale and it gets thrown on the table with DVDs, silverware, and other orphaned junk. I’m always hopeful that maybe this pile hasn’t been picked over and a gem is waiting to jump out at me and that the price might be better than at a stand where the vendor has sorted and carefully arranged the pictures.

Once I’m hunched over a box, I lose sense of what’s around me, focused entirely on sifting, culling, passing over obvious “no’s” and scanning quickly for the “it” photo, the one that has that special something.

Then there’s the bargaining. I usually don’t want to pay more than a dollar. Anything more and the photo has to be worth it. This morning, I found a handful. This is one of my favorites from today’s hunt.

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epaminonda.jpgI discovered Haris Epaminonda at the Venice Biennale earlier this year. Epaminonda is a Cypriot artist who splits her time between London and Nicosia. Her work is all about the appropriation of images—whether they’re plucked off the Internet, ripped out of old French magazines or culled from vintage film footage.

In a small, darkened room in the Cyprus pavilion, two video screens flickered with short clips that looked like they dated from the 50s or 60s. A woman walking down a street, a couple walking backwards in a garden, two lovers shopping for a wedding ring—all in saturated colors. Each clip was no longer than a minute, enough to create the outlines of a story, but the threads slipped away just as rapidly, leaving only haunting impressions.

Epaminonda’s show included collages built by layering images cut from old French magazines (which is probably why they resonated so strongly for me). The odd, funhouse Nativity scene above sets a baby child center stage while unrelated crowds of people are pasted round, like spectators in a theater—abducted from their original story and dropped into a new one. Epaminonda forces disparate images to coincide, transforming them into newly charged versions of reality.

stezaker.jpg

John Stezaker‘s pieces also reinvent reality. He combines found images—defacing portraits, literally, by covering people’s features with picture postcards or blank squares of paper.

Movie scenes and movie stars suddenly have gaping holes in them filled with another person or pattern or place. Image collisions cause shifts in depth perception and alterations in gender. Other worlds—in the form of a picture postcard—suddenly merge with a face, creating bizarre, often comic effects.

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Sexy Boy

oropallo.jpgDeborah Oropallo is actually a painter, but her recent work draws on photography. Her exhibit now at the De Young Museum meshes digital images of 17th and 18th century portrait painting with pictures of lingerie models downloaded from the Internet. Oropallo creates digital files of both images, then manipulates them in Photoshop, making some layers less opaque than others so that modern garter belts show through centuries-old riding pants and stockinged legs in high heel shoes shimmer faintly through sturdy trousered legs with boots. Distinguished historical figures are suddenly done up in drag, making George Washington and Napoleon disconcertingly feminine. Oropallo’s technique invites users to look closely, teasing them as they search for where the man ends and the woman begins. I heard one visitor, peering at one of the pieces with his wife, mutter, “I can’t tell what it is.” And he wasn’t talking about the physical print—he was talking about the person represented, confused since he couldn’t clearly define the gender; it wasn’t a “he” or a “she”—it was an “it.” Which is exactly what Oropallo intended.

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