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Have you ever felt alone in a bustling city or euphoric on a desolate mountaintop? It seems paradoxical and yet it is somehow intuitive that locations function as a backdrop for our inner worlds. Harnessing those feelings in a photograph is elusive but photographers Edie Bresler, Yorgos Efthymiadis and Frank Armstrong present three disparate interpretations of place that reflect keen senses of belonging, separateness and serenity at Gallery Kayafas through January 14, 2017.
In her series, We Sold A Winner, Edie Bresler portrays a bittersweet small-town America through her sensitively drawn chronicles of the independently owned Mom & Pop stores that have sold winning lottery tickets. Bresler captures the cacophony of color and overwhelming variety in stores that are packed to the gills, symbolically catering to every desire, peddling an aura of fulfillment and suggesting a sense of belonging through their local proprietors. Across the country, these modest stores cement their value to the community by entertaining wild dreams of hitting the jackpot and offering friendly consolation for inevitable disappointments.
Whether picturing a man lost in his thoughts or a storefront crowded with signage, Bresler’s lens is empathetic. She casts the exteriors of these often ramshackle stores in the glowing light of dusk and beautifying mists of dawn. Her portraits are unflinching and heartwarming in the shared hopefulness of lottery ticket purchasers and sellers. In a poignant set of photographs she made to respect the privacy of lottery buyers, Bresler crafts singular phrases that she heard repeated across the country from ripped up losing tickets and floats them across promising open skies. In recognizing their ordinary dignity, Bresler captures the extraordinary endurance of American dreamers.
In stark contrast to Bresler’s work, the subdued landscapes of Yorgos Efthymiadis convey a sense of tension and isolation. In his series Letting My Guard Down, impeccably conceived frames leave no edge or corner unattended, resulting in elegantly balanced compositions. There is a refined tautness in the lines of Efthymiadis’ pale tennis courts whose nets guide the eye to an immaculate, symmetrical field house and the court lights beyond, perfectly aligned with planted palm trees and set against the backdrop of an enormous mountain range and soaring, cloudless blue sky. The image is at once restrained and expansive, typical of Efthymiadis’ skillful metaphorical style.
Images like a basketball court with its lone hoop threatened by a moody seascape, a pink hotel room transmitting decorative claustrophobia and an apartment building that conjures the sensation of being walled off from others all carry Efthymiadis’ signature psychological imprimatur. The confluence of line, pattern and palette are as articulate and precise as architectural studies. But the compositions yield to uneasy emotions and, occasionally, self-effacing humor that assert a mesmerizing potency. In Letting My Guard Down, Efthymiadis has constructed eloquent and complex autobiographical landscapes.
Frank Armstrong and Yorgos Efthymiadis may both photograph the outdoors but the feelings you get from their images couldn’t be more different. Using a large format camera and B&W film, Armstrong commemorates the natural world in his series Trees, inspiring a sense of endurance and wonder in a veil of ice on a tangle of branches, a selectively illuminated stand of ancient trees deep in a forest, or the misty tranquility of winter silhouettes offset by lake and mountains. His luscious, tonally rich prints naturally draw comparison to Ansel Adams, but his view seems more personal, concentrating simultaneously on a specific detail and its context. In poised, formal compositions Armstrong encourages lingering, leading the viewer into his frames using line and light as guides.
Armstrong’s photographs are breathtaking majestic reveries, acclaiming the dignity of individual elements within the grandeur of his scenes. It is that element of character that invites viewers into the frame and transports us to places both harsh and glorious. Armstrong’s is another way of looking at our own country and selves, so different from Edie Bresler’s sociological studies and Yorgos Efthymiadis’ psychologically charged images, but one that similarly leads us to a place we call home.
For more information about this exhibit, go to: http://www.gallerykayafas.com/
Feature Image: “Newest Customer, Ohio” (detail) from the series We Sold A Winner by Edie Bresler (courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas, Boston).