The View From North Mexico
Lynn McLanahan writes about the ten intensely personal and meditative visions' represented in HCP's current show, Ten Photographers in New Mexico.
The photographs in this exhibition have been brought together to illustrate ten intensely personal and meditative visions. New Mexico…the name calls to mind images of dramatic sunsets in the desert, noble mountains, and Indian pueblos. It is no small wonder that photographers have been drawn to the "land of enchantment" for decades. Yet, as the work presented in this exhibition illustrates, not all photography coming out of New Mexico is what one might expect. With so much interest in photography in one place, it is natural that critical, historical, and technical ideas about photography fill the air. The artists presented here represent this lively exchange.
The exhibition includes "straight" prints, manipulated prints, and prints where you're lucky if you see the image at all; color prints, black and white prints, collages, and non-silver prints; prints from large format cameras, small format cameras, and no camera at all.
Perhaps the only safe thing to say in common is their area code.
Tom Barrow's photographs challenge our acceptance of what photography is on many levels, be it by cancelling a landscape with an "x" across the image, or tearing prints up and caulking them back together in a new way. Some may try to dismiss these images as toointellectual but Barrow comes back at you with a visceral punch; you look again and are drawn in by the detail and attention that went into making the finished print.
Anne Noggle speaks through portraits. Her compelling self portraits and portraits of others contain an honesty so sincere that you feel you know these people. Yet, the portraits are heightened with an intriguing touch of the surreal, and much as you want to know, or think you know these people, do you really know them at all?
Dan Peebles' sitters take on the role of characters in a drama. In each image the characters are engaged in seemingly normal everyday activities, yet running throughout these scenes are subtle emotional currents.
One person's facial expression or another's particular location in a room suggest that all is not what it seems on the surface of these photographs.
Beaumont Newhall needs no introduction to photo enthusiasts, yet only in the past few years has his own work been widely exhibited. Newhall’s portraits of friends offer interesting compositional structures and insights into The personalities of famous photographers. His architectural studies range from abstractions of New York skyscrapers to quiet yet heroic details of Austrian interiors.
Jim Jacob's cyanotype collages offer the viewer a wealth of figures, words, phrases, and pastel enhancements much in the dada and surrealist spirit. Rather than addressing a specific subject, the unpredictable juxtapositions invite the imagination to try multiple interpretations.
Looking at Rod Lazorick's nude studies, one is struck by the beautiful classical calm and the inevitable sensuality one can achieve with an eight by ten camera. The occasional intruding knick-knack of modern reality and provocative curves keep the viewer from simply lifting the subjects out of the studio and placing them high on a pedestal among the clouds.
The cast of characters which appear in Larry Borgeson's photographs are none of them real, yet he gives them life. Discarded toys, masks, and faces from centuries of art history make appearances in Borgeson's collages and tableaux and seem to inhabit a special world all their own.
The characters in Joel Witkin's tableaux are all of them real, an aspect of his photographs which is often hard to swallow as your eye is drawn into the veiled and shadowy recesses of his images. Witkin skillfully takes photography into realm not unlike that of Hieronymous Bosch.
Betty Hahn's "scene of the crime" photographs challenge the mystique which hangs over detective photos. Equipped with such tools as chalk, print dusters, measuring instruments, and a sense of humor, Hahn presents clues to crimes ranging from international espionage to the simple whodunnit which involve the viewer as a sleuth.
Holly Roberts proves that even a photograph can have a rich surface; impulsive and gestural applications of paint alter and partially obscure the image below. A fear of the unknown is raised and the viewer is confronted with phantoms of the people, horses, dogs, and iguanas which seem to be trapped below.
These ten artists represent some of the many directions photography is travelling in today in New Mexico. A strong force of artists there is working with photography, and resolutely pushing and testing the boundaries of the medium.