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Archive for January, 2008

Picking up the Pieces

rogowski.jpgSo this isn’t really about photography, but it is about pictures. This comes courtesy of our man Shane in NYC. Artist Kent Rogowski did some serious jigsaw puzzling, throwing in a twist: “Flowers and skies were taken out of over 40 store bought puzzles and combined to form a series of spectaular landscapes. Although puzzle pieces are unique and can only fit into one place within a puzzle they are interchangeable within a brand.”

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westerhout3.jpgDetroit’s been down on its luck for years now, its inner city crumbling in shabby neglect. Back in 2005, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put all of downtown Detroit on its list of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the U.S.

Oakland-based photographer Katherine Westerhout was inspired by the grand structures the late great American auto empire built and that now sit slowly rotting—wood decaying, paint flaking in huge curls, ceilings open to the sky. In her current show at Electric Works, theaters, stadiums, synagogues, movie palaces, and boat clubs lay silent, the rhythm and patter of everyday life long gone, but funny thing is, in the quiet, the buildings speak more loudly and their echoes can actually be heard.

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kimberlyaustin.jpgKimberly Austin‘s images waver and blur on silk and muslin banners. Her technique involves developing the same image on two different swaths of textile, using two distinct alternative processes. She prints one sheet of fabric using cyanotype and the other using Van Dyke then hangs both layers of material over a metal rod so that the Prussian blue of cyanotype and the rusty brown of Van Dyke line up, creating an inky image.

This piece, “Contra Natura,” organizes images of people and things like numbers on a bingo card or reels on a slot machine, insinuating a sense of blind luck, of random and multiple arrangements. A boy ends up between an antique brush and a gun, a child seated on a chair is flanked by a baby doll and a toy car. Domestic beauty on the left, force and speed on the right and in between a person.

Austin’s choice of images and groupings, forces us into stereotypical assumptions about gender, but the grid-like structure also allows the viewer to imagine rearranging these objects to come up with a different pattern.

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maizie_gilbert.jpgMaizie Gilbert compares looking at her photos to “watching a movie in a foreign language without subtitles.” Forget about the words just follow the pictures and try to extract fleeting threads of a storyline. Gilbert shoots color and b&w with a 1970s Polaroid land camera, using the lo-tech device to snap dreamy film frames. A box of Krispy Kremes. An empty double bed, neatly made. The blur of people passing in a hallway. Her work has a fuzzy, out-of-focus quality reminiscent of cast-off, throwaway snapshots, the ones where someone moves, or the light is too low—the ones that most people don’t want to keep. Gilbert’s images come to life not in the “decisive moment,” but in the vague, fluid instant just before or just after.

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jeffwall.jpg

Went to SFMOMA last week to see the Jeff Wall exhibit and fell in love with this piece, “A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai)” taken from a woodblock print by the 19th-century Japanese artist called “Ejiri in the Suruga province.”

The woman on the left with a file full of papers spiraling off in an eddy of air, the man in the business suit twirling, coat flaps flying to watch the fluttering explosion. From left to right, the characters are an elegant arc of movement that swoops upward off to the left, a line of frozen kinetic energy.

All of Wall’s photos are staged moments, so even though they might appear like spontaneous events, they are actually careful reconstructions. He explains that he stumbles onto an image in his daily rounds or is struck by a scene from a novel or a painting. It registers in his mind and then he attempts to reassemble the event, the angles, the mood and light of that particular moment.

Ultimately Wall questions the difference between an event captured by a camera and an event recorded in memory, encouraging the viewer to consider what happens in between the moment and the moment remembered.

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