Bullets and photographs at the Griffin
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WINCHESTER — Bullets and photographs have this in common: Both are shot. With that in mind, the Griffin Museum of Photography is exhibiting three shows, and the work of six photographers, that all in some way relate to ballistics. The shows run through March 6.
"Bullet Points," the largest of the shows, comprises the work of a quartet of photographers. In effect, it's four separate exhibitions, but they complement each other so well conceptually that it makes sense to include them under an umbrella heading. The variety of approaches belies the bluntness of the title.
Sabine Pearlman's "Ammo" consists of large, straight-on, close-up views of cartridge cross-sections. She photographs them in color against a white background. They're like specimens under glass, items toward a trigger-happy taxonomy. The results have a cool elegance. This owes something to Pearlman's clinical approach — and even more to the sleek, often-streamlined shapes of the ammunition.
The photographs in Deborah Bay's "The Big Bang" are also in color — spectacularly so. The procedure Bay uses is simple, if also a bit shocking. She has police officers fire a weapon into plexiglass and then photographs the results. They vary greatly depending on the weapon, ranging from a .44 Magnum to a 9mm Glock to a shotgun. What doesn't vary is how the images show beautiful, abstract patterns, like fractals or galaxies. It's with the latter in mind that Bay gives the series its title. The pun, however gruesome, is apt.
Since Garrett Hansen does something similar with his "Void" series, it's striking how different his images are in appearance. It's not just that Hansen photographs in black and white. Where Bay captures the shock waves an impact creates, Hansen presents the emptiness left behind in the form of bullet holes from shooting-range targets. Here, too, there's an overpowering astronomical aspect. The bullet holes are dark circular shapes ringed by brightness. They look like nothing so much as lunar or solar eclipses.
The 23 images Christopher Colville has in "Bullet Points" are of two types: abandoned objects he's found in the Arizona desert; and pictures created by using gunpowder and photographic paper. The latter relate not just to ballistics, but also photographic history. The original use of flash for artificial light wasn't through electric bulbs but the employment of combustible powders, magnesium or a mixture of magnesium and potassium chlorate. Again we see the dual meanings "shooting" can take.
Explosions also interest Krista Wortendyke, though the ones she portrays in "(re): media" are much more elaborate. She repurposes color images of explosions from the Web and elsewhere and makes grids or collages of them. In all but the rarest instances, we experience explosions only through their depiction in media. Wortendyke aims to convey that sense of mediation through further mediating the original event. It's neat enough in theory, but as with the too-clever title it's more than a mite opaque in practice.
For "Domesticated: Seeing Past Seduction" Yorgos Efthymiadis employs two elements: antique pistols, usually in pairs, and an attractive crafted background, such as an overstuffed chair, a Turkish carpet, or piece of lace embroidery. The resulting juxtapositions of weapon and handiwork should look incongruous. It's a bit unnerving to realize how well matched they seem.
BULLET POINTS — Photographs by Deborah Bay, Christopher Colville, Garrett Hansen and Sabine Pearlman
(RE): MEDIA — Photographs by Krista Wortendyke
DOMESTICATED: SEEING PAST SEDUCTION — Photographs by Yorgos Efthymiadis
At Griffin Museum of Photography, 67 Shore Road, Winchester,
through March 6, 781-729-1158, www.griffinmuseum.org