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Jim Casper enjoys diversity. He founded LensCulture in 2004 to explore the diverse ways photography is used in the arts, media and daily life in cultures around the world. So it should come as no surprise that, when he juried the Griffin Museum’s 21st Annual Show this year, diversity reigned in his choices. Casper says, “The 54 photographs in my selection represent a delightful range of approaches — each of which somehow celebrates the idea and the medium of photography itself — as well as the wild worlds we live in physically and in our imaginations. It’s a joy to discover so many creative people who are so fluent in the visual language of photography.” And indeed, it is a joy.
For starters, Susan DeLeo’s “Mother and Child” (feature image), winner of the Griffin Award, explores that storied relationship in a triptych veiled by a dazzling, ethereal layer. Her three images read like stills from a retrieved home movie, embracing the viewer with the suggestive glow of a time before memory. In “Cactus with Slip” (above), winner of the Arthur Griffin Legacy Award, Kay Kenny expounds on the myth of Daphne and Apollo, wherein Daphne transforms into a tree to escape the undesired sexual advances of Apollo, who is left with only her slip to behold. Kenny’s lithe slip sways beside the triumphant cactus, a vast mountain range and endless starry sky in a resonant portrayal of the natural and mythological worlds.
Dave Jordano won the Peter Urban Legacy Award (above) for his powerful photograph from the series Darkness in the Light, documenting his native city of Detroit as it struggles under the weight of financial insolvency. One haunted human face of that far-reaching tragedy is unforgettable in Jordano’s striking portrait of hesitant pride and obvious pathos. At once simple and complicated, his image speaks volumes.
Portraits by Russ Rowland, Marky Kauffmann, and Dianne Yudelson haunt viewers through an inventive variety of alternative processes (above). They are joined by equally imaginative documentary photography, exemplified by the joyful serendipity in “The Chase” by Francisco Diaz and Deb Young (last image below) and by the incisive, sophisticated compositions from Cristina Llerena, Sandra Chen Weinstein and Debi Cornwall (immediately below). These are only a few examples related to the genre of portraiture, which I’m delighted to note is as intriguing as it is unusually plentiful in this exhibit.
The 21st Juried Show holds many more treasures in the forms of landscape, still-life, an inspiring number of works that defy genre-pegging and some gorgeous abstracts, something we seem to be seeing fewer of these days. The colorful geometries realized in pieces by Kalman Zabarsky and Ralph Mercer demonstrate nuanced handling of palette and form (below).
I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity reflected in the artists themselves. Casper, who resides in Paris, selected many I’d never encountered before. My informal survey uncovered that these photographers are not only from a wide variety of geographic regions, but they span the gamut from emerging to established and young to old. The resulting imagery is refreshing, diverse and, as Caper himself stated, a joy.
In addition to the 21st Juried Show, the Griffin Museum’s Atelier Gallery and Griffin Gallery are hosting solo shows by Noritaka Minami and Lindsey Beal. In a clever curatorial turn, the two shows are acutely alike visually while completely unrelated in content. Noritaka Minami’s fascinating “1972” documents a famous Japanese architectural experiment of tiny individual habitats called the Nakagin Capsule Tower, an apartment complex whose existence is now threatened. Each one-room unit is a kind of portrait of its tenant, featuring a porthole window that serves as an apt metaphor for microscopic inspection. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts, reflecting on Japanese culture itself.
In Lindsey Beal’s series “Transmission”, authentic microscopic images of biological specimens have been used to create cyanotype (blue) prints. Beal has shaped these prints to fit into round laboratory Petri dishes and mounted them into black wooden shadow boxes. The abstract beauty of Beal’s cyanotype prints belie their very real human threat, as the captivating patterns represented in her Petri dishes are actually a variety of venereal diseases. The paradox of visual allure and hidden menace is further accentuated by the elegant craftsmanship of Beal’s pieces, right down to the brass plate engraved with Latin biological nomenclature on each specimen box.
All shows at the Griffin Museum of Photography will be exhibited through August 31, 2015. For more information, directions and hours, go to: http://www.griffinmuseum.org/blog/exhibits-griffin-museum-of-photography/
Feature Image: WINNER of the GRIFFIN AWARD, “Mother and Child, 2015” archival inkjet triptych from the series Still Moving by Susan DeLeo (courtesy of the artist).
My sincere apologies to the artists whose work appears in my terribly suboptimal installation shots!