Alex Braverman’s Brave New World
Michigan Avenue #59, Photography 40 x 60
The richly layered simultaneity of urban streets is dramatically evoked in photographer Alex Braverman’s series “New York City 2014: Synchronicity.”
“Photography is about what doesn’t meet the eye,” says Braverman, and he brings out another element of this idea in his photographs which capture dancers in motion, a subject he sometimes merges with his cityscapes in a striking synthesis of frenetic motion and grace.
Braverman’s artistic credo comes alive in his present series, particularly in pictures in which he superimposes bustling crowds over the cubistically fractured planes of looming architecture with a kinetic energy and fiery colors akin to Futurism. For all their fascination with machine age dynamism, however, neither Italian Futurists such as Balla, Boccioni, and Carra, nor Russian Cubo-futurists like Malevich and Company could have envisioned the contemporary sense of movement and chromatic vibrancy that Braverman brings to images such as “Michigan Avenue # 59.”
Like many of his major pieces, this dazzling color photographic print on metal measures sixty by forty inches, a scale that lends it a physical presence and an impact more often associated with painting than photography. The staggered and layered effects that Braverman achieves through the superimposition and visual interweaving of buildings, pedestrians, and mechanical elements such as traffic and stoplights, as well as through the multiplying reflections in glass department store display windows on that much traveled Chicago thoroughfare, creates a composition of unusually kaleidoscopic complexity.
Yet despite being filtered through the visual shredding machine of Alex Braverman’s twenty-first century sensibility, the underlying sense of order that the artist imposes on the seeming chaos of the city life by virtue of his skillful manipulation of shapes and colors results in an image as visually coherent as any classical composition. Indeed “Michigan Avenue # 59” captures the frantic zeitgeist of our time as authentically as the Old Masters captured the more placid pace of people in the plazas and public squares of an earlier time.
But even in the fast-paced modern city, Braverman can find elements of eternal calm by focusing his gaze upward, as seen in another color print titled “Chicago Loop Landmarks # 43-46,” in which metallically streamlined futuristic skyscrapers and ornately-carved classical stone domes are artfully juxtaposed. By contrast, another composition called “Merchandise Mart # 104–30–61–87,” captures the complex imagistic melange of the modern mercantile mall, with its layered stalls and kiosks, neon signage, and overlapping shadows and mirror images of dreamy shoppers, such as the svelte young fashionista in dark glasses at the center of the composition, who appears, like some of Braverman’s leaping dancers, to be strolling along in midair, as she gazes around at all the surrounding consumer treasures on offer.
In another large print called “Yin Wall City,” comprised of images of a famous shopping center in Chicago’s Chinatown, Braverman creates a more abstract gridded composition suggesting neon-lit graffiti, with shapely Asian calligraphic characters vying for attention with classic Coca-Cola logos, enticing red lips, and other superimposed images as fantastic as those in one of the famous Chinese-American artist Dong Kingman’s atmospherically dreamlike watercolors.
Indeed, Alex Braverman deconstructs and reconstructs the modern city with a richly imaginative vision more like that of a painter than a photographer, capturing “what does not meet the eye,” as he so accurately puts it, and tweaking it imaginatively to “make it new,” as Ezra Pound once exhorted all ambitious modern artists to do.
Written by: Thomas Rafferty
Alex Braverman, Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, April 22 - May 13, 2014 Reception: Thursday, May 1, 6 -8 pm
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