by J. Tim Raymond
The recent opening at CEPA Gallery of three new exhibitions offers much to mull over concerning the present state of the human condition. These works will be on view to August 22nd.
Justine Kurland’s photographs:
Flux Gallery and 2nd floor Passageway Gallery
In Justine Kurland’s au natural landscapes, folks are just going about the business of being human. In scenes of nudity and community her peaceable subjects sprall, squat, and stride across the rough edges of the continent. With children hoisted they move and halt mid-step; a curious tribe of seasoned parishoners in the great church of the land remote. Kurland’s pilgrims are so much a part of the verdant surroundings they are no more startling than deer tripping down to a brook to drink. But in a closer second look, especially in the ensemble portraits, the viewer may be struck by a sense of common identity; these are people we might have gone to school with or met briefly at a party, perhaps a teacher, sister in-law, an uncle, someone we knew in the war. So many archetypes of our disaffiliated and imminently mobile culture, having taken the other road (and that one plenty less traveled), living in a sliver of space between fatalism and self-determination. Up beyond the logging trails and firebreaks they shed their clothes like skin. What is more naked than that?
Many Moons. Photographs by Alice O’Malley:
3rd floor passageway
Alice O’Malley brings her community of friends back to Buffalo in a series of black and white works striking for their close, focused intensity. In these portraits the subjects look straight into the camera, expressions neutral.Got up in feathers and make-up, they hold the viewer in a momentary spell of calculated come-hither.
Speaking with the artist last fall revealed numerous antecedents to her art: Eugene Atget, the French photographer of a morally emancipated 1920s Paris; August Sander, the pre-war German portraitist to the working class; Cecil Beaton, photographer to café society, and more recent influences such as Diane Arbus, Bruce Weber, Nan Goldin, and Peter Hujar.
It is Hujar that Ms. O’Malley cites as her immediate mentor. His black and white photographic work with the gay commuduring the AIDS epidemic of the late 70s and 80s stands as an historical focal point for realist portraiture. This little-known but innovative artist died in 1987. Alice O’Malley continues to explore the fragile existence of the human being as a thing among other things. She focuses on the flesh beyond the incidence of costume.
Brian Ulrich’s Retail and Dark Stores:
These large framed C-Prints pose consumers in situ. Under the bright glaze of store light fixtures they appear to pause, weighing cost options in a garish atmosphere of material gluttony. Ulrich travels as far as Scotland to document a consumer culture “malled” by rampant overabundance. Here are the liquidated assets of America in scenes of criminal rape of land, by conquest and concrete.
- j. tim raymondblog comments powered by Disqus
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