February 2, 2012
By Graham Bell
EXTREME PHOTOGRAPHY AND ABSTRACT STATES
A peculiar thing happens when you cannot see into a photo; when there is no illusion, no visual depth, no window into a captured moment. Representative photographs are windows into a world (whether real or imagined), and the general practice when viewing them is to look through the medium to get at the subject. Rare is the audience member who notices the glossy finish before the picture it contains.
For painters, it is easier to give in to total abstraction. They start with materials that must be built up in order to make something recognizable. For photographers, the film and camera are specifically designed to capture the world through photons, delivering varying levels of reality.
A traveling exhibition mounted by the Aperture Foundation, “The Edge of Vision: Abstraction in Contemporary Photography,” now showing at the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College, brings together a cadre of international artists interested in the ways that the photograph and photographic process can be used in art making. Curator Lyle Rexer has taken the idea that abstraction has always been an inherent part of the medium and taken it to extremes.
Accompanied by a catalog of the same name, “The Edge of Vision” presents a stark contrast to the figural, landscape and otherwise representational works of other photographers who rely on the more documentary aspects of the camera. Instead, these artists set their focus on a more formal depiction of the very limits of what the medium has to offer.
Whereas artists like Jeff Wall and Stephen Shore succeed in altering how we see both truth and fiction, the artists in “The Edge of Vision” succeed in altering how we see photographs themselves. Wall cleverly constructs falsifications of life that, although representational, showcase the artist’s decisions in the editing room over the natural occurrences he purportedly is presenting. Shore starts with what exists and, instead of moving it around like Wall, moves himself and his tools around in order to capture a more ordered construction. Pieces like Shore’s Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California, June 21, 1975(1975) are snapshots of the American everyday and have been integral in the growth of many contemporary photographers. By eschewing recognizable imagery, though, artists like Penelope Umbrico, Silvio Wolf, Ellen Carey, and their compatriots at the Hoffman investigate the very nature of the process, its use, and its perception....
The Hoffman Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All gallery events are free; parking on campus is free on weekends. For information, call the Hoffman Gallery at 503-768-7687.
The Edge of Vision is organized by Aperture Foundation and includes photography by Bill Armstrong, Carel Balth, Ellen Carey, Roland Fischer, Michael Flomen, Manuel Geerinck, Shirine Gill, Barbara Kasten, Seth Lambert, Charles Lindsay, Irene Mamiye, Chris McCaw, Edward Mapplethorpe, Roger Newton, Jack Sal, Penelope Umbrico, Randy West, Silvio Wolf, and Ilan Wolff.
Aperture Foundation, “Aperture Foundation | The Edge of Vision,” Accessed February 1, 2012 at http://www.aperture.org/edgeofvision