A juror’s verdict, reenactors, and abductees at Griffin Museum of Photography
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WINCHESTER — Elizabeth Avedon had her work cut out for her. Avedon is a curator, art director, and designer. (Yes, there's a Richard Avedon connection: She worked for him and was married to his son.) Avedon made the selections for the 22nd annual juried show at the Griffin Museum of Photography, "The Peter Urban Legacy Exhibition." Urban, who died in 2009, was a Boston photographer. The show runs through Aug. 28, as do two other exhibitions: Eliot Dudik's "Still Lives" and Cassandra Klos's "The Abductees."
The Griffin received some 2,000 submissions to the juried show, which Avedon winnowed to 59. The selections are literally all over the map — much of the map, anyway — from Grenada (Tessa Gordon) to Ethiopia (John Delaney) to Beijing (Jaime Permuth) to Brazil (Laurent Girard).
It's in the nature of juried shows to be highly varied. If they're not, they've failed. So there are even more motifs pictured than locations. The closest thing to a common, indelible visual element here — as in life, come to think of it — is the human face.
The look on the face of the subject of Lissa Rivera's "Motel," from her "Beautiful Boy" series, is at once distanced and immediate. What we see is Rivera's genderqueer partner sprawled on a bed, staring at the ceiling. What we experience is a window on thought and feeling. Rivera won the show's Peter Urban Legacy Award. It's a good year for her. She was also in last spring's "Exposure" juried show at the Photographic Resource Center.
Faces are on display, and memorably so, in Rebecca Biddle Moseman's "Brothers" (those freckles!), partially concealed in Amanda James's "Woman," concealed in a different way in Ralph Mercer's "Untitled 3 (Mask)," and splendidly staring in Jung S Kim's "Circle II #1: The Origin of Unconsciousness."
Slightly more than two-thirds of the images are in color. The colors are boisterously lurid in Nicholas Fedak II's view of a desolate hotel, "Film Noir." That such a chromatic spectacle bears such a title is a nifty joke, since film noir is to black and white as heaven is to salvation. Even though also in color, Chris Borrok's "Nightwalker (Hollywood FL)" establishes a very noirish mood of its own. For noir menace, neither picture can match the sight of the surveillance camera in Sheri Lynn Behr's "Watching You I 038- New York."
Influences can be seen at several points. Raphael Shammaa's "Man With Panama Hat" looks very Saul Leiter-ish — a compliment to both Shammaa and Leiter. As for Lynne Buchanan's quite gorgeous "Midges Ascending," it recalls the work of a painter rather than photographer. It could be a chunk of Whistler's "Nocturne in Black and Gold — The Falling Rocket."
Ben Altman's photograph is unlike anything else in the show. A set of dark rectangles rise within the frame. A set of steps? A Minimalist sculpture? It's caption offers the grim answer: "Symbolic Rail Track Ties. Treblinka II Death Camp, Republic of Poland."
Eliot Dudik's "Still Lives" ups the ante on the indelibility of the human face, as well as taking it in a very specific and unexpected direction. There are seven color portraits, very large closeups, in the vicinity of 30 inches by 40 inches. Each shows a Civil War reenactor. We see the reenactor from above, lying on the ground, dramatically lit. The photographs reenact reenactment. They also remind us of what an innovation, and revelation, photography was in documenting the Civil War.
Cassandra Klos takes reenactment to a very different place and time: the White Mountains, in 1961. That's where and when Betty and Barney Hill claimed to have been abducted by space aliens. The Hills' being an interracial couple added a vicious edge to the widespread ridicule they endured.
Klos has created a kind of tribute installation. She includes documents (copies of originals or did Klos create them? it's not clear), an old radio, even a dress and sport coat. Klos has staged a dozen or so photographs — black and white, color, big, small, portraits, landscapes. There's something touching about the elaborateness of Klos's efforts and the anger she feels on the Hills' behalf more than half a century later. The truth may or may not be out there, but Klos knows no such uncertainty.
22nd ANNUAL MEMBERS' JURIED SHOW: The Peter Urban Legacy Exhibition
ELIOT DUDIK: Still Lives
CASSANDRA KLOS: The Abductees
At Griffin Museum of Photography, 67 Shore Rd, Winchester, through Aug. 28. 781-721-2765, www.griffinmuseum.org