in arms: Vincent Giordano's photograph, Fear 1.
Street Gallery, Troy, Through May 20
The Capital Area’s 24th Annual Photo-Regional, presented
this year at the Fulton Street Gallery in Troy, has returned
to its original two-part format: For the first few days of
the run, every work submitted is displayed, salon-style, in
a sort of democratic free-for-all. It is a delirious image-overload,
with hundreds of photographs shouldering against one another,
the quality ranging from abysmal to sublime, with many crude,
eccentric, and entertaining detours along the way. This is
usually my favorite part of the show. It is a truly populist
venture in what is perhaps the most accessible of the visual
But the second part of the exhibit, a selection of works culled
from the salon and on display for six weeks, loses its raison
d’être somewhere along the way. It has much good work, but
the pieces begin to fall into familiar categories: You have
your portraits, your nature photographs, your found abstraction,
your confessional (drug addict in disheveled bedroom), your
photos absorbed with the latest digital process.
It is unfortunate when things fall into such categories. It
is a deadening phenomenon. But the source of the problem is
not the work itself. There are many photos to delight in here,
pieces that suggest a complex array of impulses and origins,
evading easy categorization, and it is worth mentioning some
of them before considering what went wrong.
Marisa Scheinfeld’s small, elegant, black-and-white photos
entice the eye with a soft, grainy texture; when you realize
that you are looking at railroad tracks at Auschwitz and a
shower (gas chamber) at Terezin, it feels a little like being
sucker-punched in the stomach. David Brickman’s Junk, Sherman
Street, one of his Albany series, shows an accumulation
of refuse in front of row houses, the discarded couches and
gutted refrigerators making a blocky, variegated lineup along
the curb. Poverty and entropy are documented head-on, but
with a richness of color and quiet beauty that is almost reverential—you
feel you might be looking at The Last Supper, rather
than yesterday’s trash pickup. Vincent Giordano uses lenticular
technology to take up the question of Constitutional freedoms
in his slightly heavy-handed but handsome, prizewinning photos,
Speech 1 and Fear 1; each piece shifts between
three different narrative images depending on where you stand,
then dissolves into an enigmatic reflective surface. For the
viewer, it’s interactive fun, a modern equivalent of the magic-lantern
show. Heather DeSorbo’s Three Generations triptych
presents cropped close-ups of the eyes and nose of a baby,
father and grandfather. Their expressions proceed (respectively)
from open to guarded to vividly alive in the face of death,
and are as telling about the progression of age as the accompanying
increase in wrinkles and facial hair.
These are just a few reasons why it’s worth seeing the show.
So what is the problem? With no disrespect to this year’s
juror (photographer and teacher Phyllis Galembo), editing
from the all-inclusive salon format is highly susceptible
to failure, most often in the form of too many artists, and
too few pieces from each. And in this case, it’s all crowded
into a small gallery space, and hampered by window glare.
The excitement of the initial salon is over, and nothing equally
compelling has replaced it.
Last year the Photo-Regional was presented at the Albany
International Airport, with juror Charles Stainback selecting
work from slides, and presenting more work from fewer artists.
It was an excellent exhibit, but it omitted the initial no-holds-barred
salon. And maybe what we have is two distinct shows, after
all. Maybe the open salon should exist on its own, revel in
its carnival spirit, and not be parent to the juried exhibition.
And the juried show, in turn, should have free reign to explore
all curatorial avenues toward its most effective presentation.
Gallery at Union College, Schenectady, Through May 19
If you are going out to see photographs, be sure to see Orchestrated
Objects, photographs by Jed Devine and Abelardo Morell
at the Mandeville Gallery at Union College. Devine uses the
platinum-palladium process to create images simultaneously
ethereal and resolute in their lucid detail. Notable among
Morell’s works are stunning prints of bedroom interiors in
which he uses the camera obscura technique to project an image
of the exterior world—usually a familiar monument like the
Eiffel tower—onto the interior space, creating a dizzying
merge of dream and waking life.