Photo Topos is an invitation to contemplate how the physical environment takes on a new existence in the pictorial spaces that photographers create. The current display features three artists who live in Athens, Georgia. Their work involves the sense of place considered in three distinctly different ways. The first involves views of unpopulated rooms, while the second is an elaborate self-portrait that includes photographs of several cameras used by the artist. Finally, the third is comprised of gestural figure studies in exterior spaces. This show deliberately fragments the world into interiors, objects and figures in order to reunite it through photographic insights.
Rinne Allen photographs figureless interiors, in the European tradition of women’s watercolors from the 1800s, and the oil on canvas meditations of John Singer Sargent and Walter Gay. The allure of interiors has broader implications as we are asked to look inward into our own human and intellectual condition. Even when they are inviting in appearance, the unpopulated spaces bespeak an absence, thus upsetting the sense of the wholeness of life. In the same breath though, they offer a reassurance stemming from our ability to derive meaning and experience feelings from observing the still material world around us.
The idea of animating our material surroundings leads us to the works of Michael Lachowski, who creates portraits of the photo cameras he has used over the last four decades. Rendered in medallions, like the saints and heroes of the past, they embody the flow of time by displaying the changes in photographic apparatus. Seeing the artist’s self-portrait along with the images of his tools encourages us to partake in the play between observer and observed as they continuously alternate their roles.
Carl Martin’s figural studies intend to eschew any need for narrative or apparent messages. These are the records of gestures without meaning occurring in random encounters. The success of these works is that ultimately they defy this initial goal: each makes tangible the potency of the photographic gaze, revealing how cultural codes do not allow for “semiotic blanks,” for unmarked spaces, because meaning is omnipresent and unavoidable. A fine example of this is how the triptych turns the gestures of its three distinct compositions into acts of engaging the same amber-colored light streaming from the upper left into each of the separate panels.
Dr. Asen Kirin / Associate Professor of Art / Lamar Dodd School of Art