Danforth Art biennial showcases 55 photographers
FRAMINGHAM — Danforth Art’s latest “New England Photography Biennial” features work by 55 photographers. Juror Susan Nalband, of 555 Gallery, made the selection, choosing from more than 300 New England photographers who submitted.
Part of the pleasure the show has to offer — it runs through Dec. 6 — is how far beyond the region it goes. Five of the six New England states are represented (no Vermont), but we also get to see Romania, Ecuador, Cuba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Argentina, and those most exotic of all locales, the past and the imagination.
Sometimes it’s a recent past, and quite local, as in Dirk Ahlgrim’s “Snow Farm 1.” Taken earlier this year, it brings back memories of last winter’s onslaught. The picture is rather overwhelmingly large, 40 inches by 73 inches (try melting that), but the way Ahlgrim uses the yellow of snow-removal equipment, the white of snow, and the gray of general winter-ness is arresting in the extreme.
Most of the photographs are color, which, as with Ahlgrim, is often used to excellent effect. The act-of-God hues that fill the sky in Edie Bresler’s “We Sold a Winner (Borderline Cantina, CO)” look as if a rainbow has exploded. The way that a woman’s carmine lipstick chimes with the ` red topping of the cake she’s holding in Elizabeth Albert’s “A Long Time Ago” is as striking as the photograph’s play of planes and relationship between past and present. The shade of salmon pink on the bungalow exterior in Walter Landry’s “Pleasure Beach” is very pleasurable indeed.
There are numerous curatorial grace notes. Steve Genatossio’s beat-up trailer hangs next to Landry’s comparably beaten-up bungalow, which hangs next to Robert Moran’s early-model sedan. All that car needs is a hitch to be the perfect vehicle for towing that trailer. Or there’s the placement of Daniel Clapp’s three portraits of Boston street people catercorner to Michael Joseph’s three portraits of younger street people. (Clapp and Joseph are among the few photographers with more than one image in the biennial.)
Several of the photographers self-curate, as one might say. They allude to or reimagine the work of other photographers. Bob Olshansky’s “Anthony & Heather” is a two-person nude. Anthony, a plus-size male, bears more than a passing resemblance to the figure in John Coplans’s saggy, baggy self-portraits. Jim Baab’s “Jawbone Pond” shows a rock formation that looks uncannily like a nose — thus turning inside out Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s photographs of his own body to look like part of the surrounding environment. Both Mark Eshbaugh and Doug Johnson employ grids (of a Chelmsford landscape and lines created in swathes of sand, respectively), an employment that nicely triangulates with David Ricci’s also-gridded “Which Winch.” The Ricci is a twofer: the title recalling Eva Ibbotson’s enchantingly titled children’s novel, “Which Witch?,” and the subject matter being very much in the line of the most famous photographic employers of grids, Bernd and Hilla Becher.
As for Robert Avakian’s “Firefly” and Susan Richards’s “Moth (Studio Noir),” they take us to the very heart of photography. Both center on vivid splashes of light, rectangular or nearly so. They remind us that curation and color and allusion and composition and framing and cropping and the rest are nothing without illumination. If photography were a Faulkner novel, it’d be “Light in August” — and every other month, too.
At Danforth Art, 123 Union Ave., Framingham, through Dec. 6,