Wednesday, March 21, 2007

touch me

One aspect common to painting and drawing, but relatively lacking in photography, is an attention paid to a work's texture and tactile qualities. Smooth glossy sheets of paper, neatly matted and placed behind glass and tasteful, minimal frames can be off-putting. Even photos depicting textural details can appear too smooth and too distancing. Not that that can't also be good in its own way of course, but still. Some of the most compelling work in the State of the Art Gallery's "18th Annual Juried Photography Show" breaks this mold.

In this light, it shouldn't come as a surprise that my favorite piece is K.C. Englander's Antibiosis, a gathering of rough birch bark scraps imprintedvia inkjet transferwith aerial views of cities and roads. A pair of shallow transparent boxes on a raised platform and leaning up against the wall, each hold three irregular pieces. The scratchy, mottled brown and white bark bits are artificially tinted in the middle: warm blue, dull purple or an ever so slightly greenish gray. The largest, a purple one dominating the left box, shows a spaghetti-like tangle of highways. According to The American Heritage Dictionary (fourth edition, 2004), the term "antibiosis" can refer in ecology to "an association between two or more organisms that is detrimental to at least one of them." Indeed, the visual effect, along with a rudimentary understanding of urbanism, suggests a tangle of roadways at war with a city-organism. Its aesthetic suggests old maps, despite the modern technology so obviously employed.


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