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For those of us who spend a part of each day asking some variation of “what the heck is going on here?”, this exhibit might seem like a walk in the park. But parks can be dangerous playgrounds and you never know what you’ll find there. “This May Have Happened” is the enigmatic theme for Chicago Filter Photo Festival’s Annual Juried Exhibition, judged by Gordon Stettinius. If you’re in Chicago, come to the exhibition reception at David Weinberg Photography in the River North gallery district on Friday, September 26th from 6:30 – 9:00PM.
Inviting entries for this show, Stettinius proposed “the narrative possibilities of still photography develop from the power of suggestion, the potential of the open-ended scene, the unresolved thrill of the cliff-hanger” and he further enticed photographers with, “We are looking as much for questions as we are for answers.” Clearly, Stettinius was interested in building a mystery, and the artists obliged. “This May Have Happened” is filled with hints and innuendo.
In the thirty photographs selected for the show, a couple of trends especially stand out. One is, almost two thirds of the images are B&W, with some striking “crime scene investigation” overtones, employing graininess, distressed emulsions, light leaks or hard flash, as in Matthieu Brouillard’s “Untitled (Falling Soldier 2)”. The other is, most of the images include people, or parts of a person. The rest imply a human presence, through elements like handwriting, as in Stefan Petranek’s disturbing discovery of a manic episode in “Wall Work #1, Cellulose Synthase” and Susan Annable’s foreboding doom through a car’s rearview mirror in “Followed”.
In fact, a sense of foreboding is the predominant mood in this exhibit, rarely giving ground to joyful riddles or enigmatic flights of fancy. Amy Becker’s “Seaside Dino” and Joyce Lopez’s “Cormorant Christmas” are light-hearted exceptions, as is Daniel Coburn’s dancing, air-filled sheet in “Resurrection”. There is poignant absurdity in Lex Thompson’s boat-towing “Hearse” and Shannon Benine’s glut of electronic surveillance equipment mounted to a motel exterior in “The Traitor in Room 14”.
The mysterious theme of this show achieves satisfying dimensionality in works like “Jack’s Cat’ by Amy Friend. The vintage photograph of a family’s waterside recreation is visited by a constellation of bright stars, the result of Friend’s peppering the print with tiny holes that allow light to beam through, creating an “oscillation between what is present and what is absent.” The joyful infusion of bright specks is joined by the suggestion that life, like our photographic replicas of it, is fragile and fleeting.
“This May Have Happened” runs through September 27, 2014. For more information, go to: http://www.filterfestival.com/exhibitions/
To learn more about Chicago’s Filter Photo Festival public events, go to: http://www.filterfestival.com/about/2014-festival-calendar/
Feature image: “The Crevasse of the Reich” archival pigment print by Stacy Kranitz (courtesy of the artist)