Get Visual is the proud recipient of a grant from The Christos N. Apostle Charitable Trust

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

37th Annual Photography Regional

Beau Comeaux - Rubble
The 37th Annual Photography Regional is both a glimpse of the past and a window on the future. Hosted this year by The Sage Colleges' Opalka Gallery, the Photo Regional's present iteration is a truly fresh experience that also speaks clearly to the show's long and influential history.

Steven Fink - SX-70 iPhone, 2014
Featuring 80 works by 39 artists, the show was ably and amiably judged by the collaborating duo Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, who filled the capacious gallery with a broad sampling of styles, often choosing three or more pieces by individual makers, which gives the show a welcome depth often missing from such juried affairs. Prizes, chosen by the ParkeHarrisons, went to nine recipients, including two prizes given to student work, a first for the Regional in my memory.

Overall, I got some very strong impressions of where art photography is at in 2015, and I liked what I saw: A lot of black-and-white work (whether digital or traditional); a good amount of strong color abstraction; a great deal of personal documentary; and some experimental/technical stuff - but very little of what I would call "postmodern," especially of the often annoying "created to be photographed" genre.

Erin Shipley - Yielding Defects #3, 2013
In other words, if this is the photography of the future, then the future is having a healthy reconsideration of the deeply felt and, to me, quite righteous photographic concerns of the past. The fact that 11 of the 39 included photographers are students (blindly chosen) is particularly encouraging - actually, some of the best work in the show is by students, and that includes both old-fashioned and progressive styles of work. There are also appearances from some of the Regional's earliest regulars (i.e. folks who showed in the Regional as far back as the late '70s) and, in another possible first, a father and his son (Steven and Jeremy Fink) are both included.

Larry White - Mantle, 2014
And, speaking of Steven Fink, I was surprised that his five large, boldly vibrant color prints, which introduce the installation with a happy shout, did not get even an honorable mention; though I have no quibble with the jurors' prize picks on the whole, I just don't get how you can like it enough to give it that much space, but not better than some other work that was otherwise rather modestly featured. Bold color also makes an appearance in the form of a terrific one-liner from the ironically surnamed Larry White, in which a wild painting above a mantle announces itself with a tiny but sharply visible signature.

Brian Williams - Pieces of 2, 2014
Also appealing are a handful of collaged, montaged, or digitally painted pieces by Liv Zabka, Treha Myth Downey, Brian Williams, and George Guarino. All make great use of a few of the zillions of possibilities that digital photography offers, without overdoing it. Beau Comeaux, a Sage photo professor, also uses the new technology, but he makes moody, timeless, almost spooky images with the big color printer, and they are toned down rather than pumped up, color-wise.

Jess Ayotte - Lucid Dream
But it's the more traditional work that steals this show - whether monochromatic, subtly colored or, as in several cases, using both color and black and white in the same presentation, these works delve into the personal stories and histories that make up so much of the great photography of the past. None is more effective than top prize winner Daesha Devon Harris, who pairs very fine square-format color portraits with small, grainy black-and-white transparencies of the same people seen in earlier times, then adds poetically evocative titles. Her works succeed by making the personal universal, in this case projecting black history onto the black individuals she lovingly portrays.

Also outstanding are three creepy Joel-Peter Witkin homages by Jess Ayotte in delicious black inkjet on paper, and Matthew Klein's lush prints that evoke the great Chicago street photography of Harry Callahan - or that of William Klein (a relative perhaps?), both working in the '50s and '60s. I'm not on a nostalgia trip, but I love seeing this excellent work from so many photographers who may very well be dreaming of the past, or at least look as though they do.

Matthew Klein - Oh Darling, 2013

1 comment:

George Guarino said...

Nice summation of the show David. I love seeing what all these dedicated artists are up to in 2015. And you're right that Steve Fink's bold pieces deserved some sort of prize, but I suspect the large space that was given the 5 works was reward enough. You can't buy that with a gift certificate.

An exciting show that's worth multiple visits.

G