Thursday, February 12, 2009

Light/Dark at Sepia Gallery

Sepia Gallery has a cool show that may not be on the route of every West Chelsea art seeker. Light/Dark has some great examples exploring how photography has investigated whiteness to blackness as well as light versus darkness. I also like how the show investigates a few different approaches to photo technology. (Full disclosure here, two friends of mine are in the show, so I'm not exactly objective about Go Sugimoto or Michelle Kloehn.)

Go Sugimoto challenges the limits of whiteness in his Paper Work series. There is almost nothing visible in the frame. He photographs paper constructions in a specially built lightbox, then prints them at the very edge of visibility. I love them. They fuse drawing, photography, and minimalism. I am challenged to see what is there; to guess at the shape and wait until my eyes adjust to the white in order to see more edges. Is my brain filling in information that isn't there? Am I assuming that the shape continues past the point of visibility? One can't be sure, but the mystery and the formalism combine to make a satisfying whole.

Michelle Kloehn uses the antiquarian tintype process to explore abstract still lifes in a fashion that 19th century photographers could not have imagined. The process and the image have an inherent tension between them that I really like. An artist to watch.

The "discovery" for me is probably the artist who has the biggest career of all among the 5 artists in this show: Linda Connor. I was really taken with her "Lick Observatory" series. Ms Connor has taken century old glass plate negatives from the Lick Observatory in California and used them to make contact prints with printing out paper. This means that she leaves the negatives out in the sun on top of photo sensitive paper in order to make a 1:1 ratio print. This seems to me to be a perfect marriage between process and content. The sun is used to print pictures of the night sky, and an antiquarian process with antique negatives is used to make contemporary prints of an event that happened millions of years ago. It is the soul of the show and perfectly illuminates the theme and the fact of Light/Dark. I particularly loved the the one of the broken glass plate neg from 1895, printed in 1996. A century between the making of the negative and the printing of the plate on a negative at the very edge of destruction. I found it a beautiful metaphor for where photography is now, and a potent example of how photography represents and utilizes time.

Up until February 21st. Check it out.

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