Exhibitions: Boubat, Doisneau: Witnesses

By April Rapier

Edouard Boubat and Robert Dois­neau. Benteler Gallery, 2815A Colquitt, Houston, October 23- December 7.

Experiencing the photographs of Robert Doisneau and Edouard Boubat allows the viewer the purest sort of pleasure, avoyeuristic experience enriched dimensionally by their his­torical content. Boubat's pictures, some drawn from travels over the world, are those of an invisible voy­ager who dearly loves what he sees. Encounters are kept to a minimum, and are functional, supporting his capacity as director of an image; perhaps his patience is infinite and his input on the image and its subjects was minimal. No matter. Few pho­tographers are able to venture out­side their realm and maintain such an open-minded, neutral eye. "Jardin des Plantes, Paris," 1980, a picture in which a nude reclines in a zany gar­den, bears homage to Rousseau. In another, "Parc de St. Cloud,'' 1981, a couple and a statue of a couple are seen at opposite ends of a park, in identical poses. These pictures, as others, are graced with a keen sense of humor. Even the more obvious travel-related images that Boubat chose not to pass up are joyous and gentlemanly, and rendered with great care, breaking free from the status quo of cataloguing unfamiliar terrain.

Doisneau is a more demonstrative photographer, his images bearing evidence of having been choreo­graphed. This is not to say that they are, nor is it an indictment of staged image making, no matter the time period. But they feel a bit encum­bered by a voyeuristic stodginess, whereas Boubat's influence is quiet, suggestive. One envisions Doisneau as stolid, Boubat as innocent of de­vice or mannerism. Both portfolios are equally important, however, with regard to historical and sociological implications; the context of realism never comes into question. At times, Doisneau’s approach seems documentary: one sees a newly wedded couple crossing the street en route to a bar; in a subsequent shot, the couple is inside, he drinking from her glass, surrounded by a barmaid and two watchful onlookers. Another shows a bartender gesturing to a less-than-captive audience, his extem­poraneous style lost on the crowd. One wonders how he was able, in a well-known series taken from inside an art dealer's window in France, 1948, to capture the varied reactions to a prominently displayed nude. The responses vary from scandalized to wholehearted approval. "La Marieé Chez Gigéne," 1946, is of a bride on a seesaw: she is preoccupied with the playfulness of youth soon to disap­pear. Her groom is nowhere in sight. It is wondrous to bear witness to Europe in the 1940s and 50s, albeit second hand; the hysteria and uncer­tainty of a pre- and post-wartime country are sublimated into a grate­ful, rhythmic dance of normalcy, one aspect in a vast range of work in this exhibit which inaugurates the new home of the Benteler Gallery.