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Edouard Boubat allows the viewer the purest sort of pleasure, avoyeuristic experience enriched dimensionally by their historical content.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.