Theater & art

photography review

At the PRC, 13 ways of looking at the world

Ben Marcin’s “Baltimore, MD.”

Ben MARCIN, C. Grimaldis Gallery

Ben Marcin’s “Baltimore, MD.”

For this latest iteration of “Exposure,” the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University’s annual juried exhibition, 194 photographers submitted work. Guest curator Kristen Gresh, of the Museum of Fine Arts, selected 13. Thirty-six of their photographs are on display. The show runs through July 26.

Most are in color. A lot are big. Beyond that, the pictures are — happily — all over the map: from Boston and Somerville to Lebanon and Libya. Subjects include handsomely displayed handguns, quadrupeds of a certain age, Baltimore row houses, and expired photographic paper.

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One of the pleasures of “Exposure” is seeing connections emerge and multiply. Some connections are obvious. Keiko Hiromi’s pair of vibrant photographs of Liberians share a continent with Kyle Meyer’s pair of photographs from Swaziland. Come to think of it, they share the same continent (if little else) with Matthew Arnold’s two large images from the Libyan desert of still-standing pillboxes and barbed wire from World War II. They recall Richard Misrach’s desert photographs, only with an additional sense, sad and sere, of history’s weight. Arnold calls his series “Topography is Fate.” These pictures suggest a further, grimmer title: “War is Enduring.”

Meyer’s portraits of gay men in Swaziland are highly distinctive. He weaves wax print fabric into the digital print, making the resulting image almost abstract. More important, doing so conceals the identity of the sitter, since homosexuality is illegal in Swaziland. The intersection of danger and pattern recurs in the three examples here from Yorgos Efthymiadis’s series “Domesticated.” Efthymiadis photographs guns against a background of carpet or brocade. It’s easy to overlook the weapon until you see it — and then that becomes impossible.

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For reasons thematic rather than formal, Meyer’s pictures obviously relate to Zoe Perry-Wood’s three portraits of attendees at the Boston Alliance of Gay & Lesbian Youth Prom. Their candid, forthright gaze is worlds away from the hidden faces of the men in Swaziland.


The issue of presentation informs Efthymiadis, Meyer, and Perry-Wood’s work. So, too, with Susan Barnett’s half-dozen pictures of T-shirt wearers seen from behind (what we wear is who we are?), and Rhea Karam’s pair of pictures of wall murals and signs in the Middle East. In “Red Cars,” the title refers to what we see in the foreground. Behind the vehicles are a set of recurring images of political leaders and behind those images a flag and intriguing architectural space. The play of picture planes is arresting, even a bit unsettling, an effect abetted by the jagged line between shadow and light visible on a blank wall.

To be sure, the interplay of light and shadow underlies all photography. It’s front and center in Dean Kessmann’s “Test Strips.” These effectively abstract images are photograms, rendering incremental progressions from black to white or the reverse. If Morris Louis had abandoned his Stripe paintings for photography, the results might have looked like this.

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The nature of photography, in this case its materiality, also draws David Wolf. He gets striking results from using expired photographic paper for his prints. Far from festive is the glum tree shown in the 15 small gridded images of “Blue Christmas No. 1.”

Upended expectations and a sense of place define Ben Marcin’s photographs of Baltimore row houses and Debi Cornwall’s of leisure-time spaces at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Marcin’s boarded-up buildings sitting alone on a bleak lot have a proud, stalwart verticality that Wolf’s forlorn tree could learn a lot from. As for Cornwall’s four photographs from Gitmo, they are no less contradictory. In “Smoke Break, Camp America,” we see three Marines looking toward a sun-splashed Caribbean. The open water is a grim joke on the confinement — geopolitical, penal, moral — situated behind the photographer.

The most charming connection is arranged. Edie Bresler’s trio of photographs of stores that sell lottery tickets are overflowing slices of everyday American life. Just how overflowing is apparent in “Amar (Somerville, Massachusetts).” This is one busy image, abounding in shapes and colors and logos. Yet what draws the eye is the surpassing sweetness of the gaze Amar directs at the camera. His lovable look matches up with the facing photograph across the gallery, of Bogart, a Santa Cruz sheep, photographed by Isa Leshko. Few connections are better than this: two pairs of friendly, fond eyes meeting across a room. The fact that the eyes are two-dimensional and belong to different species hardly matters.

Phot0graphy review

EXPOSURE:

19th Annual PRC Juried Exhibition

Photographic Resource Center

at Boston University,

832 Commonwealth Ave., through July 26, 617-975-0600, www.bu.edu/prc

Mark Feeney can be reached at mfeeney@globe.com.
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