The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

A Painterly Touch
Marie Cosindas
Arrangements by Marie Cosindas
Ed Barnas
Photo by Marie Cosindas . Source: Marie Cosindas, "Lenore, Boston" 1965

I first experienced the photographs of Marie Cosindas in photo magazines in the late 1960s, just as I was beginning to become enchanted with photography. Her work with the then-new Polacolor film was a distinct contrast to both the prevailing black & white aesthetic of fine art photography and commercial color work. I was particularly enthralled by the lush color and careful posing of her portraits, suffused with a warm natural light and a hint of eroticism. They had a painterly feel that reminded me of Julia Margaret Cameron. It was only later that I learned that Cosindas had originally studied painting before moving into photography, initially working in black & white, as was the practice for “artist-photographers” of the period. When studying with Ansel Adams, he told her “You’re shooting in black-and-white, but you think in color.” It was not a compliment at the time.

Photo by Marie Cosindas . Source: Marie Cosindas, "Paul with Artichoke, Paris" 1968

In 1962 she was one of a dozen photographers Dr. Edwin Land invited to test the new Polaroid instant color film. Freed from the technical hassles of traditional color processing and printing, this new medium allowed her to create as well as think in color. Although many today associate Polaroid films with simple consumer cameras, large format versions and adapters for professional cameras allowed great control and flexibility in its use, and Cosindas became a pioneer in the acceptance of color in fine art photography.

Photo by Marie Cosindas . Source: Marie Cosindas, "William Powell Arrangement" 1985

While first known for her portraits, Cosindas has also worked on a long-term series of still-life images that she prefers to call “arrangements.” Three dozen of these “dye diffusion transfer” prints, created between 1962 and 1985, are on view at the Bruce Silverstein, mounted in soft rose colored mats that nicely complement the warm tones of Polacolor.

Photo by Marie Cosindas . Source: Marie Cosindas, "Asparagus I" 1967

I have worked with Polaroid materials before and had seen exhibits of vintage Polaroids so I was expecting to see a mix of mainly 3x4 and 4x5 inch prints. What I was not expecting, however, was how much content and detail Cosindas had managed to pack into each one of these images. The only thing I could think of in comparison was the visual density of a Persian miniature. The variety of components is quite wide and the combinations sometimes odd in these arrangements – asparagus with a small figurine in one and with grapes and a rose in another; a portrait of William Powell next to roses; an assortment of masks. A few portraits are scattered among these arrangements as well, but they are also carefully constructed: Lenore, Boston; Diane; Nathan with Floral; and, my favorite, Princess with Doves, Key West.

Though some were slightly larger than the usual 3x4 or 4x5 print size (10x12 at most),they all demanded a close examination and enough time to be truly appreciated.You simply cannot stand back to glance at these photos, but need to get up close and personal, mere inches away from the frame––I even wished I had brought a magnifying glass to get a better look at the details. (Also that they had been hung slightly higher as, being tall, I had to bend down to get at eye level.)

While an illustrated catalog with slightly enlarged images is available for those who do not have the time to spend with each of these images in the gallery, I would strongly suggest spending some quality time with at least a few of these gems, if only to serve as an antidote to the prevalence of wall-sized prints in so many galleries. Good things do come in small packages.

Marie Cosindas
Arrangements by Marie Cosindas

Bruce Silverstein
535 W 24th St. Ground Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 627 3930

Thursday, January 16 to
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Hours: Tues-Sat, 10 to 6

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat