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Legend has it that “Eskimo” languages have dozens of words to describe snow, a reflection of how critical it is to those living in the Arctic. Here in the developed world, there are likewise dozens of ways to describe space, a concept equally vital to us. Think about it, the way we perceive space shapes everything from our personal philosophy to our hypotheses regarding vast galaxies. In the group show “SPACE”, curator Paula Tognarelli has assembled forty-five delightfully thought-provoking photographic interpretations of this multidimensional concept in a remarkably witty and inspiring exhibit. The show will be on view through March 7, 2017 at the Griffin Museum of Photography’s satellite gallery in the Lafayette City Center Passageway in Boston’s Downtown Crossing.
The show’s theme unifies a gamut of subjects, from personal narratives about isolation and freedom to literal depictions of rooms, buildings and landscapes to abstract prints exploring positive and negative space. The selected images are especially successful in depicting one aspect of space while suggesting other meanings, as in Suzanne Révy’s “Stars”, a bedroom ceiling sporting glow-in-the-dark stars and planets (above). There is rich irony in her bright white, indoor galaxy wedged into a corner, with its skewed, hemmed-in composition visually refuting the expansive, dark connotations of outer space.
The suggestion of negative space, of something lost or missing, is explored in psychologically powerful images such as Honey Lazar’s “He’s Been Gone Five Days” with its pensive, intimate camera angle and introspective selective focus, Patricia Bender’s “David” with its gently bowed head solemnly accentuated by a reversal in B&W tonality and Audrey Gottlieb’s “Lars at the Wiggly Bridge” whose snow-blown, solo figure on a path to an obscured vanishing point evokes a sense of isolation.
Artists with more literal depictions of indoor and outdoor spaces have nonetheless constructed their compositions to implicate something deeper about the relationship to our surroundings. For example, Brenda Buist’s rusted structural skeleton stands in stark contrast to its lush green beach scape, a startling and bemused reminder of man’s imposition on even the most remote terrain. Andrea Greitzer elegantly frames an unpeopled pass-through space in a Parisian museum, its cool, spare lines and symmetries interrupted by pops of color, tokens of its absent occupants. Richard Allan Cohen’s “Psyche” features reflected multiples of the sculptured Goddess in a warm flood of color reverberating with impressions of “the self.”
Some artists have employed specific graphic shapes like the circle to invoke unexpected interpretations of space. For example, Vicki Stromee’s vignette of the water’s surface, with its abstract reflections in pretty pastels, bestows the impression of a “New World.” Joyce Lopez employs distortion and parched, dusty hues in her circular photographic format to make a strong plea for our ecologically threatened world in “Drought.” Susan Lapides’ “Galaxy” plays with idea of scale, drawing parallels between a watery blue underworld with its starry, iridescent jellyfish and the deep blue expanse of outer space teeming with stellar activity. Meg Birnbaum’s glistening, translucent “Currants” glow like miniature moons in the night – or perhaps tiny embryonic sacs floating in a dark womb. Robert Collier Beam’s “Mystery Lights” suggest the presence of spritely otherworldly visitors to a barren monochromatic desert.
Other artists have created surreal or abstract spaces. Marky Kauffmann’s hand-crafted reflection on a blue moonlit night simply sparkles in its dreamlike delicacy against a spray of starlight in “Double Tree”, Tytia Habing’s “Nebula Vessel” morphs a cloud into a spaceship hovering over a field, and Philip Augustin’s poised, blurry B&W abstract is at once massive and weightless, perfect and imperfect. The installation of this show deliberately promotes interplay between photographs, both visually and conceptually, introducing altered perceptions of space that infuse the images with an exhilarating complexity and, I have to say, a sense of fun. Greater than the sum of its splendid parts, “SPACE” invites us to ponder.
The thirty-seven artists whose photographs are included in this show are: Philip V. Augustine, Garrett Baumer, Robert Collier Beam, Karen Bell, Patricia Bender, Matthew Bender, Anne Berry, Justine Bianco, Meg Birnbaum, Darin Boville, Berendina Buist, Laura Burlton, Joy Bush, Bill Chapman, John Chervinsky, Richard Allen Cohen, Rick Colson, Amy Friend, David Gardner, Jennifer Georgescu, Audrey Gottlieb, Andrea Greitzer, Tytia Habing, Elizabeth Ireland, Marky Kauffmann, Kat Kiernan, Susan Lapides, Honey Lazar, Joyce P. Lopez, Sarah Malakoff, Greer Muldowney, Suzanne Revy, Dana Salvo, Jennifer Shaw, Vicky Stromee, Maija Tammi, and Zelda Zinn.
For those who are unable to visit the show, there is a terrific exhibition catalog, viewable online and available for purchase: http://griffinmuseum.org/product/space/
For directions, hours and more information about the “SPACE” exhibit, go to: http://griffinmuseum.org/exhibitions/
Feature Image: “Star Chart, 2014” (detail) by Jennifer Georgescu (courtesy of the artist, and Griffin Museum of Photography).