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Between Absence & Presence

Pasaje by Andrew Ortiz, part of an exhibit at El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera (91 Allen Street).

Black birds. Like Poe’s raven. Ominous. But of what precisely? And for good or ill? (Birds the color of death. And countenance, too, perhaps. The beak. The eye.)

Andrew Ortiz’s stark, handsome giclée photos—giclée is a fine art ink-jet printing process—on show at El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera raise these questions, but do not resolve them.

These photos are about presence. Again, like Poe’s raven. Ineluctable, disturbing, enigmatic.

And its contrary, absence. As in death. But not absence entirely. More the presence of absence. The absence photos show remnants of bird, partial bird. (For nothing disappears entirely. To memory and its technological extension, photography.)

Presence as in a vigilant bird guarding some ancient clapboard structure in palpable state of decay. Paint peeling from the clapboards, the wood of the roof beams, where once there were shingles, now virtually gone to compost.

Or the faint image of the head of a bird superimposed on a desolate landscape of boulders and leafless brushwood.

Absence as in Muerte, presenting partial bird. Bird decomposition more by way of dismemberment than decay. And the decomposition of the photographic image. Death in art, in an art process, complementing real death.

And Hallucination, featuring an uncanny halo image, suggesting further sublimation of the same partial bird image as in Muerte. Bird transported to the realm of the ancestors, and become venerable.

Some strange in between presence and absence photos feature birds in makeshift hoods of coarse and tattered fabric and dirty cotton. Suggesting a variety of possible references from the ancient pastime of hawking to head trauma to Abu Ghraib.

But in any case, blinding, to quiet, to silence, the bird of omen. (And as if light were an animating principle. As in photography.)

One passage in between presence and absence photo, Pasaje, shows a lifeless bird suspended from some inscrutable feathered contrivance. Some kind of bird gallows?

These beautiful, mysterious photos are on display until April 9.

jack foran

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