Coast to Coast: Recent Work

One of our most successful exhibitions to date was Coast to Coast: Recent Work, which opened in January. Here, we reproduce a review which appeared in The Houston Post at the time, and a few thoughts from the curator.

Curating an exhibit on a one-time basis (as opposed to a full time position which offers a broader, more complex access) assumes that personal as well as general considerations of aesthetic will be employed in the selection process. The photographs included in the Houston Center for Photography's recent "Coast to Coast" exhibit were edited from over two hundred images (34 artists) received over the course of several months. The only restriction the participants were asked to adhere to was to send recent work. Therefore, many of the images were debuting in Houston. This untested, experimental element was the thread that tied a rather large and diverse group of photographs together, making them function as a whole as well as individual artworks.

The exhibit was comprised in its entirety of non-regional artists. The initial invitation to exhibit was extended to 36, some luminaries in the field, others lesser-known (perhaps with a strong local following); all demonstrated a validity, a greatness of vision, a history of growth and change.
The artists were not limited as to technique, and the result was a collection of many photographic processes, from traditional to conceptual, formal to irreverent, eight by ten studio camera to Brownie, platinum to Polaroid. Often, the surface of an image was altered by the addition of toning, color, pencil line, collage, or even words and drawings. The consistency lay in a sense of internal vision emerging, whether visceral, cerebral, literal or metaphoric, that could not be denied or contained.

The process of selection began in September, 1982, as a list of potential exhibitors began to form, including Barbara Crane, Ralph Gibson, Ken Josephson, Wendy MacNeil, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bart Parker, Rosamond Wolff Purcell, William Parker,Trina von Rosenvinge, Gilles Larrain, Aaron Siskind, Stephen Petegorsky, Dan Babior, Susan Jahoda, Boone Morrison, and Stephen Brigidi.

The inherent obligation of an exhibit, no matter what its scope or theme, is to present a body of work which hopefully the viewer will enjoy; more importantly, he or she will carry a sense of the images long after the specifics are gone.

By April Rapier

The ambitious new show at the Houston Center for Photography, Coast to Coast; Recent Work, is comprised entirely of non-Texas artists. That's not the only way it defies HCP tradition. It also includes a number of sensational manipulated photographs that are likely to rub some of Houston's purists against the grain.

April Rapier, the curator of the show, invited 34 photographers from around the United States to participate; the only restriction was that they send new pieces, fresh and untested. All but one responded positively, usually with six works, which Rapier edited down to a show of about 100 photographs. Many pieces, therefore, are making their public debut at this show.

The result is a wider variety of processes and styles than is usually assembled in one show — Polaroids (both SX-70 and large format), formal black-and-white studio portraits, conceptual pieces, humorous mixed-media works, Cibachrome prints, elegant platinum-and-silver prints, and hand-colored photographs. Some are by world-famous photographers (such as Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan), while others are by new artists. It's a wild mixture, requiring a certain measure of discipline to simply walk through in a linear manner--one's eye is grabbed first by this piece, then by that.

Among the highlights:
Daniel Babior has four hand-colored city scenes with everyday people fro/en in strangely artificial poses. The prints are beautifully vibrant, and the Marshall oil-colored urbanites seem to float out of their dark backgrounds.

Jamie Wolff's two type-C prints have slashes of vibrant color one a festival streamer, the second a railroad crossing bar — breaking out of gray, foggy backgrounds.

Wendy MacNeil made her own printing paper for her three photographs by brushing platinum emulsion onto translucent tracing paper. Onto this she made huge contact prints for a study of hands.

Bill Parker has one piece in the show, a large sequential photograph with 64 Polaroid prints called "Marvels of the West (Denying the Ephebe)." Its primary repetitive images are of a woman m a leotard and skirt who stands arms crossed or akimbo and a yearning naked man. The prints are arranged in a soothing and balanced fashion, much like a mandala.

Gilles Larrain’s four black-and-white portraits are soft and dreamy. Larrain, an emigre from France, is known as a painter as well as a studio photographer, and these gorgeous portaits have richly textured backgrounds of his own creation.

Four black-and-white prints by Aaron Siskind — a series on volcanic lava — feature twisted, tortured forms gleaming in the sun.

Trina von Rosenvinge of Rhode Island has recorded four amazing and elaborate tattoos, which are themselves works by Ed Hardy; she makes Ciba­chrome prints and works with a large-format camera.

Bonnell Robinson makes infra­red photographs of lush vegetation.

Susan Jahoda. who teaches at Princeton, uses colored pencils, furniture finish and strips of wallpaper on her portraits, which are ravaged with bleaches and toners, whole areas wiped away and redrawn.

Copyright 1983. The Houston Post. Reprinted by permission.

By Teresa Byrne-Dodge