Group shows at PRC and Griffin combine quality and quantity
Quality is always to be hoped for in a juried show, and both “Exposure 2019” “and the Griffin Museum of Photography’s “25th Annual Juried Members’ Exhibition” offer it. Where they differ is in how they handle quantity.
“Exposure,” which runs at the Photographic Resource Center at Lesley University, in Cambridge, through Aug. 11, presents the work of 14 photographers. Each has three to five photographs on display. Mark Alice Durant did the selecting. The Griffin, in Winchester, offers 58 photographers, each with a single image. Julie Grahame was the juror. With “Exposure,” the emphasis is more on the photographer. At the Griffin, it’s the image.
The two most striking sets of pictures at the PRC play with the illusion of depth. In the case of Navidreza Haghighimood, it’s one picture in particular: “A man who loved the ocean, a man who feared the ocean” (the title’s pretty striking, too). The blurry image of a man in the sea is seen through obscuring droplets on the lens. The droplets, besides nicely alluding to the ocean, lend a dimensionality to the flat surface. With Jessica Burko’s three photographs the depth is real and derives from how she frames them. Each rests in the bottom of a drawer. This presentational device is all the more arresting for being so simple. A photograph, for better and worse, flattens the world. Burko makes a gesture toward unflattening.
Two photographers have work in both shows: Kristen Joy Emack, black-and-white images of real sweetness, showing African-American girls; and Astrid Reischwitz, who achieves striking textural variations by superimposing a piece of embroidery on an image, and then photographing the result. Russ Rowland is just in the Griffin show. But the droplet presence in his “Water Portrait — Caroline” makes it kin to Haghighimood’s “A man. . . .”
The work in the Griffin show is of such consistent quality that it’s a shame not to write about all the photographers, and all the more so because the work is so diverse. How diverse? With its uninflected strength, the piled-up stones of Kathleen Taylor’s “Broken Road 1” could be a New Topographics descendant. Which could hardly be more different from the delicacy of Yelena Zhavoronkova’s plant study “Grana.” Both are in black and white, which makes the contrast all the greater with the nearly color-field chromatic punch of James Collins’s “Damselfly.” The title of Jay Boersma’s “The One That Got Away,” with its serial images of fish hooks, each bearing a photograph of a fish, makes it as amusing verbally as it is visually, and visually it is extremely amusing.
The Boersma hangs near several other such meta photographs, one of multiple instances of nicely imaginative hanging. There are groupings of water-related photographs, vegetation-related photographs, and, best of all perhaps, astronomy-related photographs. It’s the imaginative way that astronomy is construed that’s most memorable. Scott Nobles’s “Unboxed/Mars Rover” shows two boys in astronaut gear “exploring” a man-made “Martian” landscape. The deadpan weirdness is out of this world.
Kay Kenny takes a less unconventional view of astronomy. She has spent over a decade taking long-exposure photographs of the night in southern New Hampshire and the Southwest. The dozen images in “Into the Night in the Middle of Nowhere” are in color and large, ranging from 22 inches by 28 inches to 30 inches by 40 inches. The pictures are beautiful and often spooky. Nighttime is the right time, especially when there’s a saguaro cactus involved.
Eleonora Ronconi took the 22 photographs in “Serás mis ojos” (“You will be my eyes”) in her family home in Buenos Aires. Memory meets domesticity: a rotary telephone, old photos, a pair of eyeglasses. The colors are rich and handsome. A quiet-patterned wallpaper covers the gallery walls on which the photographs hang. It is, yes, a suitably homey touch.
The suspending medium for Ronconi’s images is memory: a medium all the more palpable for not being tactile. In Jennifer McClure’s “Excerpts From ‘Laws of Silence,’ ” the suspending medium, being aqueous, is both tactile and buoyant. We see an indoor pool; a life preserver floating on the surface of another pool; a diver, photographed underwater, wreathed in bubbles. “A pool is water made available and useful,” Joan Didion has written, “and is, as such, infinitely soothing.” The sense McClure conveys is more one of disquiet. Call it rapture of the not so deep.
At Photographic Resource Center, VanDernoot Gallery, University Hall, Lesley University, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Through Aug. 11. 617-975-0600. prcboston.org
25th ANNUAL JURIED MEMBERS’ EXHIBITION
KAY KENNY: Into the Night in the Middle of Nowhere
ELEONORA RONCONI: Serás mis ojos
JENNIFER McCLURE: Excerpts From ‘Laws of Silence’
At Griffin Museum of Photography, 67 Shore Road, Winchester, through Sept. 1. 781-729-1158, griffinmuseum.org