Art Review


The Camera Obscura Gallery (1309 Bannock Street, 303-623-4059) opened in the 1970s, making it the granddaddy of Colorado's photo galleries. Its creator, octogenarian Hal Gould, a photographer and curator, is the granddaddy of local photo enthusiasts. Fifty years ago, even before he launched the gallery, Gould began to collect photos by some of the greatest lens wizards of the past century. Over the decades, scores of important photos piled up in the second floor of his shop and in all its nooks and crannies.

Though the gallery mostly presents traveling solo exhibits, Gould periodically pulls some of his gems out of storage for fabulous theme shows. That's what he's doing now with Masterworks in Platinum, Camera Obscura's answer to the classic summer group show -- but with a late September closing, Masterworks is the last of its type, because the fall season is already getting started .

The impressive Masterworks exhibit is, as the title indicates, given over to platinum prints; many consider platinum to be the finest black-and-white processing method because it offers a wider range of gray tones. Photographers have long valued platinum for printmaking, and it was popular with many of photography's historical big names. Gould has assembled quite a roster of famous photographers, from early practitioners such as Edward Curtis to hotter-than-hot contemporary artists like Mary Ellen Mark. Among the other famous photographers in the show are Berenice Abbott, Ruth Bernhard, Imogene Cunningham, Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber and over a dozen more.

Many of the individual photos are dazzling, but the exhibit only loosely holds together. That's because the deluxe technique is the sole organizing theme on which Gould built this show, having put in a wide variety of styles and a full array of subjects, such as Cunningham's "Magnolia Blossom: Tower of Jewels" (pictured). The show is mostly made up of signed limited editions, and there's also a good selection of vintage prints. Masterworks in Platinum closes on September 28.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia