Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Resist: Inauguration at Una Gallery
Early February links
First Thursday Picks February 2017
Dead tree media & dead horse flogging news
Post Snowpocalypse Weekend Picks
More Disjecta'd
New Year opportunities
Monday Integrity Links
First Thursday Picks January 2017
Jason Berlin + Alanna Risse at Rainmaker
Saying goodby to 2016
Mid December Links

recent comments

categories

 

Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Essays
Interviews
News
Openings & Events
Photoblogs
Reviews
Video
Links
About PORT

regular contributors

 

Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman

archives

 

Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us

 

Contact us

search

 


syndicate

 

Atom
RSS

powered by

 

Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a

 

Creative Commons License

Monday 01.14.08

« Emily Ginsburg at OSU's Fairbanks Gallery | Main | Creative Business at the IPRC »

Aaron Siskind at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art

siskind_handbrokenwindows_w.jpg
Aaron Siskind, Untitled (Hand and broken glass), 1940s

"If you look very intensely and slowly, things will happen that you have never dreamed of before."
-Aaron Siskind

I was caught a little off guard when I walked into the Charles Hartman Fine Art to see a show of Aaron Siskind's photographs. In most of my favorite photos there is no object in the picture. Just a surface. More often than not, it is decaying as we silently watch it. In his best photos he destroys the object in the same way that the best abstract expressionists destroyed the figure. More accurately, the body is what filters the experience, both of the photographer and the viewer, rather than being the object.

Siskind's photographs are famous as examples of the ideas of Abstract Expressionism branching out into other mediums including photography and sculpture. Elaine De Kooning even wrote the forward to an exhibition he had at the Charles Egan Gallery in 1951 as she had done for Mark Rothko a few years earlier. In the show at the Charles Hartman there a few pictures of disembodied feet, a lone glove and the reflection of hand, the pictures that moved me were the ones about nothing.

With the pictures of the surfaces, you never feel the eye of the photographer behind the camera. We are left to explore the surfaces by ourselves. I think that is why I was reacting against some of the pictures of the feet and the glove, they were too beautiful. I think that I might have been in good company, because I got the feeling that he liked the human body as a form rather than as a vessel for a soul. In the pictures of feet or the lone glove on left on charred wood, you could sense the arrangement of the composition, what he wanted out to the picture: good compostion, good lighting, good photograph. My favorite photos go much deeper. He is studying us by what we leave behind, as if to see our culture for the first time.

jerome_20_w.jpg
Jerome 20, 1949
Gelatin silver print, 1957

I think that is why he liked the photos of poster's peeling off the wall. It is like the posters have one life when they are new and serve the purpose they were designed for, but who is to say they do not have any equally important message when they decay and fall apart. The best photos are like Gloucester 3 and Jerome 20 where just wander across and explore this beautiful surface. It is not a surface that was designed but is built by the leftovers and things that we don’t want. I think that was the big difference between the photos of the body and the photos of the walls is that in the photos of the body it was everything he wanted, everything that photography is about. In the pictures of the walls that all goes because they are things that nobody wanted and we are led to a place far more interesting.

By exploring the surfaces of the things that Siskind found tearing away from walls or from detritus in the street is important because he found a language that paralleled the line of thought that was being developed by the Abstract Expressionist painters: Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning, and Franz Kline to name a few that are relevant to the show. The photos are unforced and natural. The photos that I liked were the ones that were like walking down the street and finding the natural equivalent of Pollock drawing or a De Kooning painting.

Siskind_chicago14.jpg

Chicago 14, 1949
Gelatin silver print, 1956

He was using the same language but in a different medium. Who knew that in Chicago 14 he would find a precursor to Pollock's drawings with ink and Japanese paper? Like the best painters it hard not to equate what is happening in the photos to actual tactile qualities of the gelatin silver print itself. The whole experience becomes self referential like a feedback loop, a discourse on the medium of photography. We see one charred and torn paper slowly peeling away from an old wall in Chicago 1960 and it is like something like Twombly or Rauschenberg would have done if they were drawing with a razor blade and a blow torch. How can we not compare the paper in the photo to the paper it is printed on? For me, the photos begin to become a meditation of the transcendence of life and death, or what happens when we are no longer useful.

siskind_chicago.jpg
Chicago, 1960
Gelatin silver print, 1960

Like the best art Siskind's photos bring a deeper understanding of the medium and like the best photographers we see ourselves in his pictures. Except in Siskind's case, it is not who we are but what we leave behind that matter.



Posted by Arcy Douglass on January 14, 2008 at 0:27 | Comments (0)


Comments

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Remember me?


s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee