The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Orchard Street in November

Ed Barnas
Photo by E.J. Bellocq . Source: monyarowegallery.com
E.J. Bellocq

I started my most recent LES walkabout near the foot of Orchard St. at the Monya Rowe Gallery . When gallerist Rowe suggested to filmmaker and scriptwriter Paul Schrader that he curate a show at her gallery, he suggested the title “Absent Friends” – thinking of the audience an artist aspires to, but no longer here (or maybe never were). Opening with a video clip from “The Walker” endlessly repeating a toast to “to dear departed friends,” the show is an eclectic mix of media, referencing memory and absence. Photographs include a Hiroshi Sugimoto time-exposure of an empty movie interior, one of E J Bellocq’s Storyville portraits in which the face had been scratched out from the negative, and a pair of Sally Mann’s images of her dog Eva, alive and dead (and opposite a screen grab of her with the dog). Also included are examples of retroactively created absence: two pairs of found Internet images of censorship involving the removal of “inconvenient” individuals from photos taken with Kim Jong-Un and Stalin.

Photo by Katherine Hubbard . Source: becapricious
Katherine Hubbard

I detoured over to Eldridge St. to check out Katherine Hubbard’s “Four shoulders and thirty-five percent everything else” at Capricious 88. The sixteen silver gelatin monochrome prints on display present two conceptual variations on the traditional desert landscape, raising the question of how do we now look at “land.” In one series Hubbard set up two view cameras facing each other and interposed her body between them. The resultant 4x5 negatives were contact printed onto 20x24 paper in groups of 1, 2, 3, or 4 negatives to capture the multiple viewpoints. In the other series the negatives are traditional enlargements. Each negative, however, had been exposed multiple times to compress numerous viewpoints into a single frame. Both series address the concept that each of us will see the land in a different way, echoing Heraclitus’ comment that one cannot step into the same stream twice.

Photo by Bryan Schutmaat . Source: sashawolf.com
Bryan Schutmaat, "Gold Mine" 2011

Walking back to Orchard St., my next stop was the Sasha Wolf Gallery to view Bryan Schutmaat’s “Grays the Mountain Sends,” a somewhat melancholy exploration of abandoned mining towns in the American West. The fourteen archival color pigment prints show landscapes, storefronts, and portraits in a mix of viewpoints. The long views offer a broad range of detail. However, for the portraits, Schutmaat opens up the lens’ aperture to narrow the field of focus (sometimes, as in the images of Ted and Buckmaster, leaving only the eyes and lips sharp with the nose and ears softened). Most engaging was the portrayal of people in these images. Some look directly at the viewer while others glance down or to the side. Though there is resignation in some faces, there is also a tangible feel of determination in others, and in none is there a hint of pretension.

Photo by Guillermo Cervera . Source: anastasia-photo.com
Guillermo Cervera, "Havana, Cuba" 2008

My last stop along Orchard St. was Guillermo Cervera’s exhibit at Anastasia Photo. Eleven of the twenty-six color images on display are from “The Last Patrol,” a HBO documentary by Sebastian Junger following Cervera and two combat veterans as they walked along Eastern rail lines, getting “to know America again” after their time overseas. Covering one wall of the gallery, it starts with a dramatic Hurricane Sandy image before turning to less dramatic, almost pedestrian, imagery. The photos on the opposite wall are almost like flashbacks that would trigger their journey. Taking in the images in a clockwise fashion enhances this connection between the images. An overview of Cervera’s work over the last twenty years, it documents, with few breaks, most of the major conflict zones from Bosnia to the Ukraine.

Orchard Street in November by Ed Barnas

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