By Susan Froyd
By Byron Graham
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davies
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Bree Davies
By Susan Froyd
By Kate Gibbons
Though the three photographers in this show are only superficially linked by their use of color, their distinctive visions work well together. This will be the last of the unsung-talent shows at CPAC, however. Future programs will likely take a look at well-known local and national photographers. "We'll be getting more directed," Kohloff says.
Years Together & Years Apart
Through April 23
Camera Obscura Gallery, 1309 Bannock Street
Not far from the CPAC, experimental photo-based pieces are also filling up both of the main spaces at the Edge Gallery. In an unusual move, two longtime Edge co-op members, abstract painter Mark Brasuell and photographer Dania Pettus, have collaborated on a single body of work titled Everything Personal.
For Brasuell, this is the latest in a series of edgy -- or perhaps kooky -- ideas that address the nature of creativity and authorship. In the past, he's had others put titles to his paintings, he's used abstractions and extensive text panels to illustrate his experience of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (even dedicating that show to his psychiatrist), and he's had other artists start drawings that he then completed (in some cases drawing over and eliminating the efforts of his would-be collaborators).
But Everything Personal looks nothing like his previous work, nor does it resemble the previous work of Pettus. Thus the two have been successful in creating truly collaborative art, an extremely rare commodity in the fine arts.
In the front gallery, Brasuell and Pettus have assembled a group of fifteen photo montages that have been digitally printed. Using a computer, the pair combines photographs of the figure with a wide variety of found printed images and drawn abstract forms. Meshed in this way, the details, even if sometimes elucidated by the titles, are difficult, though not impossible, to make out.
On the wall facing the entrance is a row of nine digital prints. In the red-tinted "pull baby face," there's a closeup of a man's distorted nose and mouth, the result of computer manipulations. In "big-hipped rubenesque woman," a thin and delicate woman's hand strokes her ample stomach. This piece is carried out in a palette of grays and ochres.
On the adjacent wall is another set of six digital prints. Among the prints are "patterned bottom scarab," in which a gray half tone of a scarab is laid over a nude done in a shimmering blue. This print is one of several pieces that combines images of insects with the very different form of the human figure or the face. The geometric elements of the beetle, with its rows of legs, are juxtaposed with the organic tangle of human limbs underneath.
The same kinds of images are also seen in the larger middle space at the gallery. In these pieces, the digital prints have been installed in roughly finished, black-painted shadow boxes that are back-lit. In fact, the only light in this space is that which emanates from the boxes themselves. The resulting mood is warm, even though some of the specific image juxtapositions in the pieces are slightly unnerving.
Most of the lighted boxes have been hung in groups of three to nine pieces, but one, "Flying Lying Lady," is hung alone and holds its own. This may be how Brasuell and Pettus imagined they would be displayed -- individually -- since they've priced each piece separately, regardless of how they've been installed at Edge.
Back-lighting shadow boxes is an art form that came into its own in the mid-1990s -- especially in Denver at 37th Avenue and Tejon Street. And though Brasuell and Pettus haven't made any improvements upon the form, their boxes create an atmosphere that fills the entire space. Even the tangles of white extension cords that hang below the boxes and clog the edges of the room are no real distraction.
Anything Personal is worth seeing, both because it is ambitious in itself and because of the ambitious goal of the two artists in attempting a collaboration.
If traditional black-and-white photography is more to your liking than experimental color work, the venerable Camera Obscura has just the thing: Years Together & Years Apart features the work of the late Imogen Cunningham and her son, Rondal Partridge. All the prints were newly done using old negatives; the Cunninghams have been estate-stamped.
Cunningham, who died in 1976, was one of the greatest fine-art photographers of the first half of the twentieth century. In 1900, at the age of seventeen, she began working as an assistant to legendary Seattle photographer Edward S. Curtis, and in 1903, she entered the chemistry department at the University of Washington and became an expert in the use of photographic chemicals.
Soon after, she joined the pictorialist movement after meeting Alfred Stieglitz, who was then a proponent of the style. "The Supplicant," taken in 1910, is a good example. It is a narrative photo concerning a nude male pursuing a reluctant nude female. It looks like a still from a silent movie. Cunningham gained easy success with this kind of work and was given a solo show at the Brooklyn Institute in 1917.
In the 1920s and '30s, she began doing the kind of work that made her famous and linked her to other West Coast photographers, like her close friend Edward Weston. In these signature photos, she captured the abstract qualities of flowers or the female nude. Examples of both types are included in this exhibit. "The First Magnolia," from 1923, shows a flower in bright artificial light set against a dark, recessive ground. In "Triangles," from 1928, Cunningham crops a nude woman's body to highlight the geometry of arms, breast and stomach.
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