Art Review

John Bonath blurs the edges at Camera Obscura

Hal Gould just turned ninety, and not only is he by far the oldest gallery director around, but his photo gallery, Camera Obscura (1309 Bannock Street, 303-623-4059,, which he runs with Loretta Young-Gautier, is one of the oldest in the country. That said, there's nothing old-fashioned about the place, as amply demonstrated by Blurring the Edges: John Bonath 1996 to 2010, a show of digital photo-based works that fills Camera Obscura to capacity with eye-popping images.

The solo — with an accompanying book — isn't quite a retrospective, since Bonath has been taking photos for nearly forty years; instead, it focuses on several bodies of work that use computer programs for their creation. There's a lot more to it than that, however, as Bonath's methods are very complex. He creates the settings, either landscapes or still-life scenes, using real materials that he finds and gathers up. He makes up his models and sometimes dresses them in costumes — or undresses them — before combining various shots of the background and the figures to create a single image. And, as if that wasn't enough, he also paints some of them after they've been printed.

The show has not been hung in chronological order, and none of the pieces have been dated, so viewers have no idea how they fit together. The reason Bonath decided to do it this way reflects how he works: All of the various series are open-ended, with one being done simultaneously as he works on others.

Though male and female figures are obviously favorite subjects for Bonath, as seen in the outrageous "The Whisper" (pictured), he's also interested in plants and insects. His compositions range from simple and straightforward to elaborate and obtuse; they are connected, he says, by the shared idea of the primordial.

I've long been a fan of Bonath's work, which is known for both its technical perfection and its intriguing pictorial quality. This show stays up through April 17 at Camera Obscura. Don't miss it.

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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