As demonstrated by shows at Robischon and the Center for Visual Art, conceptual photography has come on strong in recent years, and in the process, it has revolutionized the medium of photography itself.
Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art has long showcased this kind of work — in which the photos are simply the final stage of an elaborate process that infuses levels of added meaning into the images and involves a lot of preparation before the actual camera work. And this is certainly truly of the oddball and sometimes disturbing digitized photos in Jasper de Beijer, in the MCA's Joseph Crescenti Family Paper Works Gallery. A Dutch artist with an international reputation, de Beijer marks his Denver premier with this show.
It's an unusual exhibit because MCA curator and director Cydney Payton included a selection of miniature props de Beijer made and then photographed as a key element of his process. The artist also works on a computer to alter the photos before they're printed. Interestingly enough, this is the first time that the models and the photos have been brought together in a single display.
The MCA show includes examples from three de Beijer series: "Cahutcho," which metaphorically resurrects a rubber-making facility now lost in the South American jungle; "Heroes and Ghosts" -- done during the artist's residency in Japan -- combines emotion with imagery that was partly inspired by the fantasy landscapes from the nineteenth century by Kuniyoshi; and "Le Sacre du Printemps," World War I-era photos in which de Beijer has inserted images of his miniatures.
A good example of the latter is "05_09" (pictured), which carries in it all the violence inherent in the topic. The photo is dominated by an explosion caught at its apex. On a stand across the room is the three-dimensional shape made of cotton wadding that plays the part of the conflagration.
The provocative Jasper de Beijer runs through August 3.