ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque is celebrating its artistic past, present and future this year with a series of citywide events titled “On the Map: Unfolding Albuquerque Art and Design.”
The Richard Levy Gallery jumps into the Duke City exhibition pool with a cannonball splash by offering “Coordinates,” a local-talent extravaganza. The show, whose title refers to local GPS coordinates, features Thomas Barrow, Xuan Chen, Jenna Kuiper, Emi Ozawa, Tom Waldron, An Anonymous Artist late-20th-century, Mary Tsiongas, Katya Crawford, Susan Frye and Jennifer Vasher through June 6.
Pinhole cameras have been a simply constructed tool able to take viable photographs for mere pennies since the invention of photography.
Lately several cutting-edge photographers have returned to the humble pinhole as a way to revitalize what has become, via digital cameras with megabyte lens, computers, tablets and smartphones, a high-zoot technological albeit quotidian wonderland.
Barrow is an iconoclastic University of New Mexico professor emeritus in photography who made a career out of pushing photography into the realm of sculpture, impractical furniture and general kitsch. He is offering a couple of rather staid though beautiful landscape images to “Coordinates.” What makes them really cool is that they are pinhole camera shots with a saturation of eye appeal.
My favorite is Barrow’s “Last Cancellation,” a sunset in a landscape featuring black lace trees in the foreground and bisecting contrails in the fiery sky aglow in bright reds and deep burnt orange. The long exposure time required for low-light pinhole shooting allowed Barrow to capture those contrails which I doubt were simultaneous.
Viewing Chen’s beautifully executed painted aluminum sculptures utilizing colored string to create radiant planes took me back to childhood. My dad, who was an itinerate portrait painter when he wasn’t building houses, doing illustrations for our local papers or reading, would visit the Baltimore Art Museum’s Rembrandts while my sister and I went straight to the basement gallery to see the Egyptian mummy eternally resting in a horizontal glass case.
In the stairwell were two constructivist sculptures made of clear plastic by brothers Antoine Pevsner and Noam Gabo, who used rows of parallel strings to describe curving planes.
Those museum sculptures, made nearly a century ago, were cool, aloof and somehow, though obviously memorable, fell short of engaging the viewer. But Chen’s smaller-scale constructions are generously colorful, gorgeously designed, compelling and alive. Their brightly hued shadows make them seem to be lit from within. Two thumbs up, I’m in love.
Another eye-catcher is “Peach, 2015” by Emi Ozawa, who paints corrugated mahogany with acrylics. The application of colored stripes on each facet of the folded picture plane creates the illusion of several different compositional points of view.
I was immediately reminded of the op-art paintings and constructions by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam, who was born in Palestine in 1928. Ozawa’s paintings are less ambitious than Agam’s, making her far more subtle imagery easier to view.
Tsiongas enters the fray with a well-conceived and -executed multimedia installation that has a built-in visceral wow factor. Her evolving video replete with a burning sun arcing through the sky and a crawling fly makes connections with natural history collections of botanical specimens while her fly stands in for the ancient Egyptian scarab beetle.
The early Egyptians symbolically thought the lowly dung beetle was magically blessed with the onerous after-sunset task of rolling the sun to its morning position on the eastern horizon. And you thought your job drove you buggy.
Waldron, like the late David Smith, is blurring the boundaries between media in “Mercury, 2014,” a bas relief wood sculpture that creates the illusion of depth and volume through the use of hand-drawn cross hatching.
There are many more high-quality works and artists than space allows. This is an excellent exhibition well worth a leisurely trip Downtown.