Photography: Angles of Vision, Versions of Reality

David LaBella

The confluence of personal vision and state of the art technology amounts to a powerful creative synthesis in “Altered States of Reality: an Exhibition of Analog and Digital Fine Art Photography,” at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from October 27 through November 17. (Reception: Thursday October 29, 6 to 8 PM.)

Typographically, Maria Trezzi does in photography what Kurt Schwitters did in collage. Yet the fragments of text that Trezzi employs in her compositions also serve as semiotic symbols, a kind of concrete poetry suggesting retro-futuristic word towers in a consumerist Waste Land.

The digital photo-collages of the artist known as GISART set off their own complex associations. For GISART’s pictures present our everyday environment as a media-saturated minefield of tantalizingly elusive meanings. By contrast, Uri Mahlev strives in his photography to create a space in which the viewer can connect with his or her inner self. Yet Mahlev also suggests existential isolation in one memorable image of a small silhouetted figure traversing a shadowy space as alien-seeming as the surreal terrains of Yves Tanguy.

Brazilian artist Clecio Lira colors his original black and white floral photographs digitally, adding vibrant hues more influenced by Carnival than by nature. Thus Lira’s pictures are essentially painterly explorations, in which a bright yellow flower set against a brilliant blue field takes on a sumptuous sensuality that makes one see a familiar thing in an entirely new way.

Starting with his name, native New Yorker Isaac Images brings a wry Neo-Dada sensibility to photographs such as “Blood From a Stone,” in which two squeezing hands appear to give the literal lie to the saying, “You can’t get blood from a stone.” Making visual puns and metaphors his métier, Images creates surreal statements while bringing a much-needed element of humor to the contemporary art scene.

Swarming with an intricate array of internal patterns and images, the portraits of Lil Dafonte have prompted apt comparisons to Giuseppe Arcimboldo. The literalism of Dafonte’s synthesis of photography and fantasy, however, projects a more compellingly contemporary psychological impact than the paintings of that of the 16th century precursor of surrealism. Through soft-focused magnification, Sharon Hickey turns minute details of the Australian landscape into lyrical explorations of form and color. By eschewing the tritely picturesque, Hickey reveals much more intimate essences underlying the lay of the land.

Widely exhibited Connecticut photographer David LaBella also explores the natural world up-close, albeit in crystalline focus, creating a hyperrealist effect that emphasizes the tactile qualities of simple subjects such as tightly packed rocks or a bed of autumn leaves. La Bella’s pictures possess the palpable, uncompromising “thingness” of imagist poems. Another kind of photographic purity comes across in the black and white images of Eleanor Owen Kerr. For Kerr unearths moments of sheer magic: a shaft of sunlight streaming through the monolithic ruins at Stonehenge; a path of stones skipping over water like the proverbial stairway to Heaven.

Crystal “water balls” used to maintain humidity in plants are transformed in the photographs of Lymarie Rodriguez into elusive symbols. By virtue of her unique vision, Rodriguez evokes a mysterious miniature world, alternately bucolic and cosmic, where these tiny reflective orbs morph into strangely symmetrical dewdrops or planets. Continued from page 23

Iranian-born California artist Toktam Tayefeh, a painter as well as a photographer, projects a panoramic grandeur that recalls Turner or the Hudson River School in her fanciful, atmospheric digitalized landscapes landscape vistas. By contrast, Rupert Davis captures a dynamic sense of urban power in his “New York, New York ll,” where the impassive faces of classic stone office buildings, kissed by sunlight, appear tilted at an angle that enhances their innate sense of drama. Like the other photo-artists in this important survey at Agora Gallery, both demonstrate the diverse directions of an ever-evolving art form.

–– Byron Coleman

Image Credits: 1107 Acadia National Park ME, Digital Print on Paper, 20" x 16"

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