In the minds of the general public, the process can get a bad lap. It means a kind of detached automation or imposed order that seeks to regulate or “normalize” what is inherently variable. But for many artists, the process is the practice of revelation and deeper understanding. If you can’t believe it, stop by the recently opened outpost of the Maine Museum of Photography and enjoy “Constructed & Found” (until August 23).
The photographers Brendan Brock, Luc Demars, Dummy Polovic, John Woodruff, and Barbara Goodbody on the walls of the MMPA each approach their work in their own way. It can be consciously devised (Woodruff) or deliberately disassembled (Polovic). It can also abstract light and landscape through motion (Goodbody). In yet another case, it’s just about fundamentally narrowing the focus on the details of what you’ve come across (Bullock). And in one example, it is a system devised to represent the infinite changes and mysteries of natural phenomena (Demers).
For me, Demers, the most influential work in the exhibition, the images represent the confluence of processes, short-lived, and poetry (not necessarily in this order). It was a work that I was immediately attracted to, but despite the bold and almost Baroque unbridledness of the floral image produced by Woodruff, it is certainly more clearly arrested.
Demars’ reference to Josef Albers is clear, at least superficially. A juxtaposition of colors in the form of a square within a square. But these are more than just formal combinations and hue recombinations that investigate the effects of color on our perception. Alvers sharply delves into the subtleties of the relationships between the gradations of shades, and the deeper effects (emotional, psychological, physical) that those gradations have on the human psyche. However, while Alberth used paints to achieve these goals, Demar uses light and time more bitterly and lyrically.
In his “Ambient” series, Demars shoots outdoors. He cuts square windows into white paperboard panels, arranges them back and forth, with a space between them, and places them on an open empty axis. His camera is mounted on one end, framing this series of windows. Light hits each of these panels in different ways, temporarily coloring them. Light that reaches the back of one panel reflects that color to the front of the next panel. This means that the light in any two panels will always have a slightly different quality and tone than the space between the next two panels.
The gentle beauty of these works does not mean that they represent a record of a particular time zone. If so, conceptually, it’s not much different from On Kawara’s “date” painting, which began in 1966 and continued until his death in 2014. Art as an object).
Demars’ poetry has the meaning of evanescence in his work. In Kawara On’s paintings, the days are set in the same repeating format, so each loses its individuality and peculiarity over time. Demers’ work is a soft line and tonal gradation that captures the light and mood of the moment before it always shifts again in the next millisecond. You can literally see the moment when you pass by, but you can feel its warmth, coldness, softness and brightness.
And at the same time we do this, we can intuitively understand the continuity of lasting time. Demars also deliberately seeks a particular shade and light quality, activating the shutter release only at the exact moment he recognizes the particular pink, lavender, or yellow he has been waiting for. They are worth the whole show.
Porobic’s work deals with how our minds build and record images, and how our brains reconstruct them as memories. His process is also an investigation of his own identity as a Bosnian-American. He shoots common items and phenomena found outside the studio. Sky, water, trucks, Adirondack chairs. He then takes this digitized image and combines it with his master print skills.
Artists can separate specific sections, colors, and pixels in a digital record and print only them. It then separates different areas and colors and feeds the previously created partial image to the printer so that the second programmed section is printed on top of the original photo. Porobic may do this about 40 times until the image is complete. However, in the lines of the printing process, the colors and sections do not exactly match the original margins, so it is completed in a whole new way. It’s like the color of the silkscreen doesn’t exactly match the originally determined color area of the original artwork in which it is duplicated.
The resulting photo is vague and obscure, like our identity and memory. Both are layered with first impressions filtered by inaccurate memory, intervening experience, and retrospective understanding, like Polovic’s images. The basic image remains, but the perhaps indisputable reality at the time of its occurrence is at best unstable and probably no longer relevant.
At another level, these works question the generally unchallenge assumptions of traditional photography as a medium that captures the reality of the moment and freezes it in time for permanence. But in reality, what can we really hold forever?
Woodruff, on the other hand, throws reality into the wind. His process in this latest series is to take pictures of hundreds of flowers, print them on paper, cut the flowers by hand and place them in groups collaged on several glasses a few inches apart. .. He also trains light between layers to illuminate the flowers in different ways. Finally, his camera sits directly above the layered composition, so the resulting single image actually looks down on the layer.
In that case, view a flat image to determine which flower is at what depth, or whether the flower image is actually adjacent to another image on the same layer or through multiple layers. You will not be able to. These images are pure artifacts, but they bend our minds in ways that deprive us of our perceptual abilities. Our brains and eyes cannot pinpoint what we are seeing, what the front line is, and what the background is.
Woodruff’s previous series, which applied the same process to photographs of the night sky, moonlight, or sunlight stars, was more for me, mainly due to the added perceptual confusion that it actually appeared to emit spots of light. It remains interesting. A small LED bulb behind the print. It’s not that these aren’t interesting. they are. And they have a chaotic lush thing that catches the flowers at the most ripe moments – bright, fully open, on your face – which inevitably means corruption and death, and things are impermanent. Point to. We can see them both as fertility and funerals.
Like all the artists mentioned above, in fact, like the photographic medium itself, Brock’s work is about something that’s gone. For many years he has been assigned a camera to shoot a particular event or story, so he has carved out space to focus on details that are literally overlooked. I say that what literally looks like an abstract composition is genuine but closely observed.
As he says about the work he was filming (Camden’s abandoned boathouse), “everyone went out for lunch, like noon on Tuesday 1990, and never came back.” That experience is represented here in a photo that is a detailed hyper-close-up inside a boathouse office drawer. There, the mouse chewed and scattered the bristles of someone’s brush.
At first glance, “Draftman’s Brush Hair # 2” looks like a black-and-white line drawing by Miro, or the same draftsman’s pencil on gray paper. Our proximity to dusty, bristle-studded drawers becomes completely abstract – again like memory – and captures the moment of expiration. The same thing happens with scratched images of walls in Tanzania, tar paper patterns on the roofs of Cleveland buildings, and so on.
Last but not least, there are two large-format works by Portland-based beloved photographer Barbara Goodbody. She has been experimenting with her photographic media since attending Rockport’s main photography workshop in 1986. (Currently called Main Media Workshop + College, there is currently an exhibition curated by Bruce Brown at Cove Street Arts until July 30th, showing the work of various graduates.)
In these two images, Goodbody used a common plastic camera when shooting sunrises in the western desert while he was in motion. You can’t get anything more temporary. The 2009 “Sunrise I” is stunning and looks like a picture of Georgia O’Keeffe in the sunlight shining through the cut between the two mesas. Sunlight appears as a dazzling, near-nuclear explosion in the upper center of the image, with a single hot ray splitting the two land masses.
This image has tremendous power, abstracting natural phenomena and, in the process, conveys the intensity of the image more effectively than if she were stationary and clicked on the camera. We would not have been aware of the fact that heat and light move and burn. I also understand that, like a bolt of lighting, I see something happening in an instant. Prank is not intended.
Jorge S. Arango has been writing about art, design and architecture for over 35 years. He lives in Portland. His contact information is: [email protected]
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