Thank you to Joe Woodard for his enthusiastic review of Crossing Territories, curated by Debra Klomp Ching. For those of you who haven’t made it to the gallery yet, now would be a great time to stop in and see this outstanding group of images from tremendously talented artists.
Take a look at this –
BY JOSEF WOODARD, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
‘New Directions 2012: Crossing Territories’
For any aficionado of fine art photography who has somehow managed to avoid the alluring Wall Space Gallery, now a year-and-change into its vibrant life on the Santa Barbara art scene, the current exhibition should serve as a ripe primer for the gallery’s aesthetic agenda. New Directions, now in its sixth year, and 2012’s “Crossing Territories” is the second annual group show in this space, with a guest curator culling work relevant to the Wall Space theme of promoting and showcasing contemporary photography and tracking new ideas and methods in the medium.
This time around, New York gallerist Debra Klomp Ching has been deputized to curate the exhibition, with the stated goal of examining the ways in which a diverse assortment of current photographers are “addressing the intersection of form and content,” to quote the curator’s statement. To make a long story a bit shorter, the broad range of intriguing pictures and processes seen here indicate a photography scene very much in flux, looking backward and forward in the effort to see anew.
Perhaps aptly, the first images we find in the show, close to the front door of the house-based gallery, come to us courtesy of Google, that present-day digital Svengali and info-guru source. Meggan Gould gathers the visual raw materials for her work via that common practice of the “Google search,” and then compresses the findings into fuzzy, dense field reports, which take on their own patina and definition of “content.” In this case, for instance, the titles tell all with “Mona + Lisa” and “Mugshot.”
Narrative strategies come in different shapes and backstories. Colette Campbell Jones’ “Stories,” of figures tucked into the brick tenement building of a Welsh coal-mining town, is an example of her practice of scanning and stitching composite imagery together into an unabashedly unreal, yet extra-real, “digital darkroom hybrid.”
From the more deliciously simple end of the technical spectrum, Odette England’s “Without Me” series features deceptively casual snapshots with the portrait of the artist cut out. What’s missing adds a strange presence to the picture, via the scent of absence.
Speaking of strange presences, the Japanese artist currently known as Photographer Hal shows what is probably this show’s most instantly eye-grabbing print, from his “Flesh Love” series. The photographer seeks out volunteer models — couples — from Raves, and asks them to pose in close embraces in festively decorated vacuum-packed clear plastic, snapping as many exposures as he can in the several seconds before they’re allowed to breathe again.
No doubt, the bizarre circumstances of the process and concept, not to mention the striking end result, captures the imagination in some new way. Twisting an old adage of the photographic medium, the artist’s project involves a capturing and sealing-off of the “moment,” adding sprinkles of Japanese kitsch, low kink and high concept.
Suggestions of artistic impulses from beyond the conventional, representational ken of photography also filter into the mix here. Laura Wolf’s photograms blend photographic techniques and the handmade gesture, and S. Gayle Stevens’ antiqued mosaic effect filters natural imagery through an abstractionist prism. More dramatically, the most abstract piece in the gallery is Bill Miller’s large, and self-explanatorily titled, “Ruined Polaroid No. 40,” which looks like nothing so much as a scrappy but charismatic kinfolk to a Rothko painting, but achieved through despoiled photographic material.
One perhaps unintentional but ever-seductive theme in this show — and in photography generally — has to do with the elevation of the commonplace, the practice of focusing on objects in the world we take for granted, and finding profundity there. William LeGoulon achieves that feat with “Tea Stain,” and Brooks Reynolds with the quixotic, dark “Human Hair Enso.”
In an extension of that high-low culture mashing concept, another of the impressive pieces in the show spins off of California poolside consciousness, but with a disarming twist. Cathrin Schulz’ “Authenticity of America, Poolside 13” is a fairly epic-sized print, but makes a subtle impact by virtue of its being largely a white void space, trickling down from a narrow horizontal band of “content” at the very top: a stately row of pool chairs is underscored by a wash of that characteristic “swimming pool blue,” which quickly melts into whiteness of being.
In this case, vis a vis the curatorial thought bubble of the show, form and content swim into the realm of dreams. Photography can go there just as easily as into the prickly thicket of what’s “real.”