About thirty years ago, serious fine-art photographers began taking scenic shots that incorporated not only the magnificent landscape -- the focus of their predecessors -- but also glimpses of development's litter. By now these poignant dichotomies, once so groundbreaking, are a standard of contemporary landscape photography, particularly here in the West. The current exhibit at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (1513 Boulder Street, 303-455-8999), Re-Viewing the American West, presents two artists interested in this type of photography.
In the lower gallery, just inside the front door, is a grouping of work from Susan Goldstein's "The New American West" series. Traveling the highways of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, Goldstein found striking contrasts by the roadside and immortalized them in 8x10 gelatin silver prints. One notable shot (untitled, as are all of these photographs) records the Focus on the Family highway marker outside of Colorado Springs: The sign is in the foreground, with a lightning strike in the background. Another photograph (shown above) reveals a concrete statue of Christ standing on the porch of an adobe house. Goldstein has an eye for the absurd, so her series includes a lot of stuffed animal trophies hanging in bars, restaurants and motels; there's even one featuring a giant steel insect -- another sight just outside of Colorado Springs.
Up the ramp are large-format, full-color Iris prints on Somerset paper by Jeff Scott. For these photos, Scott sought out historic buildings covered with historic advertising -- for example, a nineteenth-century mining-town storefront with a large and theatrical 1930s art deco sign. Whereas Goldstein is making social commentary, Scott's pieces are more classically picturesque, despite their use of advertising as a principal subject. Although some purists complain about the use of Iris technology to make art, the process allows Scott to replicate the look of watercolors. To me, it doesn't matter how the photograph was made. I think Iris prints are just fine -- as is all of the work in this very strong show.
Originally scheduled to close at the end of September, Re-Viewing the American West has been extended through October 13.