ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Renowned photographer Patrick Nagatani has curated an exciting photography exhibition with five other artists at SCA Contemporary Art. The show examines the range and latitude of contemporary photography that moves far beyond the still camera.
Since photography’s humble beginnings in mid-19th-century Europe it has always had a problematic relationship with the fine art of painting. Who could have guessed that crude cameras producing fragile images on glass in 1842 would find themselves recording food shots on Twitter or the birth of a baby in real time?
In the beginning of his career Nagatani once held a film camera and took shots of his Los Angeles neighborhood, but like Dorothy he’s not in Kansas anymore. The breathtaking array of his accomplishments since his point-and-shoot days could and have filled several books.
In this show Nagatani unveils selections from his 30-year-long tapist series wherein he painstakingly layers translucent masking tape over ink jet prints.
The installation begins with “Uncertainty,” a mural-scale image based upon the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon. For years Nagatani has built scale models of Anasazi kivas into which he has inserted miniature BMWs and other fine cars as if they were part of the fossil record. His subsequent photographs reconstitute the miniature sites into full scale fantasy digs.
So it is impossible to know whether “Uncertainty” has any direct connection to real world cultural remains or are manifestations of our collective memories of the past as expressed through Nagatani’s model-building prowess.
Nagatani reveals the difference between the sometimes frighteningly vivid quality of dreams compared to the softened and self-protective qualities of memories in “Matsushima Dream” and “Matsushima Memory.”
The almost garish colors in his dream image of a landscape with water features are juxtaposed with the soft and misty palette used in “Matsushima Memory.”
Videos can be really boring or fun. Gillian Brown is a master at making videos that embrace the arts and sciences in ways that make her works compelling. Never boring and beyond fun her “The Shape of the Universe” and “The Beginning of Language” projected videos are the bee’s knees.
For “The Shape of the Universe” Brown built an open structure of a house with a bed inside surrounded by a sphere and tetrahedron fashioned from wire.
When the video of a woman sleeping is projected onto the construction it becomes integrated and virtually disappears as a separate structure. The video contains a soundtrack of running water and is filled with star-laden galaxies, mathematic notations and geometric drawings all playing over the restless woman in bed presumed to be dreaming the floating imagery and water sounds.
Brown’s videos are gob-smacking good to watch and a touch of fun as well.
Leigh Anne Langwell loves to play with scale and like Nagatani likes to build her own tableaux. In the past Langwell photographed organic microcosmic molecules that looked like laboratory specimens. The molecules, however, were constructions much larger than they looked and were made from a variety of materials.
In her “Private Universe” series Langwell has thrown aside her controlled exposure lighting setups and printing equipment in favor of her tableaux creating materials, only this time she is making huge things on a tiny scale.
Langwell discovered that her father, who was a lifelong hobby astronomer, had really wanted to be an astronaut who traveled among the stars. In his honor she constructed galactic imagery that could be hung on the wall to contemplate at ones leisure.
Like the Lilliputian galaxy that hung from a dog’s collar in “Men in Black” Langwell offers viewers tiny views of the macrocosm. Her work is beautifully executed with impeccable craft.
Scott Rankin offers the most conventional-looking imagery with a series of sky shots. One of the strengths of photography is its ability to freeze an instant in time. But, when you view Rankin’s skies filled with subtle colors and ambiguous shapes they seem to be in motion – nice trick.
I see Carol Chase Bjerke’s “Touchstones” series of photography and drawings to be part of the growing land-art movement with the added element of sculpture that celebrates works by Andy Goldsworthy as well as ancient stone cairns found all over the world.
Her small constructions also impart a Buddhist echo.
Jyl Kelley uses human hair and finely crafted speakers to create sound sculptures that swing between Alexander Graham Bell’s first amplified utterances to the string and Dixie cup audio devices of childhood treehouse fame.
Kelley embraces the historic interface between art and technology in a positive and creative manner.
This is a great show filled with veteran artists from around the country who have granted themselves artistic freedom despite the fact that they all have MFAs.