Thursday, May 3, 2018

Sylvia Gutierrez reviews Eugene Richards

             I actually had the the opportunity to experience in person the temporary exhibition The Run-On of Time of the American photographer Eugene Richards in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. This exhibit covers his career as a photojournalist and documentary photographer from 1968 to the present, the collection includes 146 photographs, 15 books, and selected videos. After refusing the draft of the Vietnam War, graduating from Northeastern University, learning large-format photography alongside Minor White at MIT and later working as a health care advocate in rural Arkansas, Richards finally returned to Dorchester and began to document the changing, racially diverse neighborhood where he was born. Over the past fifty years his oeuvre has consisted of very complicated and controversial topics such as poverty, emergency medicine, drug addiction, cancer, mental illness, the impact of war on veterans and their families, caring for the elderly, and the depopulation of rural America.
           In an interview with James Estrin about this current exhibit, Eugene Richards confessed to the fact the he never thought of his work as a whole to be as rough as it really is, “I’ve lived this life, met these people”. He was never trying to just capture the bad aspects of these neighborhoods, rather he was attempting to reveal something true about their lives and their humanity. Although at times, one may believe that we are at lowest lows, but even then, there is still joy and the good times in which we should not overlook regardless of how simple that one moment is. In Grandmother, Brooklyn, New York, Richards illustrates to the audience those wonderful moments of life.
Furthermore, just like Anthony Francis (whom we had at UTSA as a visiting artist), Richards is very conscious of what it means to go into someone’s house, into their privacy, and capture those very personal moments in pictures as we can see in Sgt. Jose Pequeño with his mother, Nelida Bagley. West Roxbury, Mass and in Crack Annie, New York City. Ultimately, Richards’s life work illuminate personal struggles that might otherwise go unnoticed on the day-to-day, with the hope that his art might spark conversations on how we should care for one another as human beings.

Grandmother, Brooklyn, New York,
Gelatin silver print

Sgt. Jose Pequeño with his mother, Nelida Bagley. West Roxbury, Mass2008
Gelatin silver print
Crack Annie, New York City
Gelatin silver print

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Sylvia Gutierrez reviews Annette Messager

French visual artist, Annette Messager, is mainly know for her installation oeuvre as she utilizes a number of different mediums such as dead animals, stuffed toys, puppets, prints, various textiles (generally veil), drawings and most importantly, photographs. Nevertheless, photography became the focus of her body of work in 1961 when she won a Kodak international photography competition. Since then, Messager molds photography into her body of work in very unique formats, as in most cases, she creates a cohesive duality between her photographs and her installations as seen with Mes Voeux (My Vows) in 1991. Messager suspended from strings hundreds of framed photographs of individual body parts, fragmenting the human body and having the viewer consider each piece on its own alongside the unified body of work; a theme which appears repeatedly throughout her work. The body parts in the photographs range from male to female, old to young, attractive to unsightly. When placing them in that isolated format, the viewer is made to question and consider why certain body parts were placed here or there. Society has accustomed us to make associations to certain body parts to have sexual or psychological connotations, yet Messager is here to break those associations through her collages.
In a like manner, Messager utilizes the aesthetic of collaging to explore issues relating to the body, identity, sexuality and femininity. Investigating in depth what it means to be a woman and the myths, stigmas and standards of beauty that surround that role. In another of Messager’s body of work called Mes Jalousies (My Jealousies) in (1972), she looked at plastic surgery as something that society has now found a necessity or requirement for women to be seen as beautiful. In Mes Jalousies, she presents a series of portraits of young, beautiful women in which she has then taken it upon herself to scribble in black ink to create wrinkles, crows’ feet, blemishes on their faces, causing them to appear cross-eyed, as well as blacking out individual teeth all for the purpose of prematurely aged them and contradicting that standard or beauty placed upon women.

Mes Voeux (My Vows)
closeup: Mes Voeux (My Vows) 1991

Mes Jalousies (My Jealousies)

Sylvia Gutierrez reviews Thomas Lang

          Thomas Lang is a French photographer whom began his artistic career by basically exploring all that he could like the theater, web, cinema and animal documentaries. It was not until 2008 when he decided to specialize as an independent photographer. Although his primary focus is mostly commercial photography, his travels have led him to work with different cities and observe/capture the interaction that each city has with its inhabitants and visitors. Lang explores the world of fine art photography by going through the analogue methods versus digital. By using film, he reimagines the tradition of a contact sheet through his series Gestalts, a German word that translates to “shape” in English. By using the layout of the contact sheet, Lang captures a single subject that has been then broken into a mosaic-like compositions of 36 images or creating fractured versions of the subject.
            This entire process is extremely meticulous and Lang achieves it beautifully. The development of one image, he had to anticipate the distribution of the frame on the contact sheet and determine the angle he had to take for each of the 36 photographs, as well as the order in which he had to realize his shots. Everything had to be planed beforehand, for if he failed at one point, the final composition would not seem as cohesive. This is where the human brain is quite impressive. Individually, each exposure is its own abstracted element but when placed correctly together, despite the few deliberate distortions, our brain takes in this optical illusion and manages to create a real and cohesive “shape”. Similar to Patrick-Bailly-Maître-Grand’s periphotography within his series Fromol’s Band, Lang creates an almost cylindrical motion throughout his images as the viewer is allowed to observe the scene or subject from multiple angles through construction and a deconstruction which our minds partake.

Gestalt series

Gestalt series 
Gestalt series