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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Gillian Wearing, from Trauma, 2000

At 8:30 pm tonight, TJ Norris and I will present Masked Men and Virtual Identity, a rapid-fire meditation on deceit, camouflage, identity, cover-ups, and duality before the camera. It’s part of a Pecha Kucha hapening, described as “creative people talking about creative things,” wherein everybody shows 20 images and speaks on them for 20 seconds each. If you’re in town, I hope you can make it. The event flier can be seen here.

34 NW 8th (8th & Couch), 8:20 pm, sliding scale

Eadweard Muybridge, Plate 700 from Animal Locomotion, 1887, collotype at Charles Hartman Fine Art

Coming off of a better-than-average month of photography in the city, summer’s dog days aren’t a particularly rewarding time for photo enthusiasts in Portland. Next month’s Wild Beauty at the art museum should be a pretty big deal, particularly with a visit from historian/curator Martha Sandweiss on October 22. (Don’t bother searching for the lecture or exhibition on PAM’s website. Their Upcoming Exhibition page yields “no records.”) For the next 30 or so days, however, Portlanders will just have to get their photo fix tapas-style: a nibble here, a taste there, wishing they could just get on with a full course already.

Charles Hartman‘s collection of vintage Muybridge collotypes from Animal Locomotion is a notable exception, however. Muybridge’s motion studies are perfect 19th century endnotes, with their deconstruction of natural phenomena into mechanical processes, slippage of the still photograph away from autonomy and toward motion pictures, the dandyish gentleman’s wager of the series’ origin, and the silly exuberance of the later images in the guise of scientific inquiry. (“Hello, Governor Stanford? Could you please send over two naked handmaidens, one baboon, and a crippled child for tomorrow’s shoot?”)
Charles A. Hartman Fine Art, 134 NW 8th, Tues-Sat, through Aug 30

Of the two Blue Sky shows this month, I’m most looking forward to the work of Toronto-born, Kiev-dwelling photojournalist Donald Weber. He’s showing work from two series: Bastard Eden, which profiles the people living in the woods and abandoned apartment buildings—against strict orders—in the Exclusion Zone that surrounds Chernobyl, as well as The Underclass and Its Bosses, a portrait of Dneprodzerzhinsk, where the fall of Socialism “created a moral vacuum” that enabled rampant criminality, corruption, and violence.

Additionally, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (of TV’s ER and CSI!) exhibits his Boda Boda series, which depicts the bicycle delivery men of Uganda. Their dilapidated bikes are used to haul enormous loads, but aside from this curious exoticism, I’m not really seeing the strength of this work so far. Based on the jpegs, it seems that Mwine’s photographs don’t actually tell us anything about the boda boda men (in a journalistic sense), nor do they possess the arresting visual strength of, say, Pieter Hugo. (Perhaps it’s not a totally fair comparison, but it’s entirely inevitable, and not altogether unfounded.)
Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW 8th, Tues-Sun, through Aug 31.

The lionization and mythology of the 1970s New York underground scene is perpetuated in Bande à Part at Augen Gallery. The traveling exhibition features photos of NY’s creme de la cool, as seen by Billy Name, Marcia Resnick, et al. Perhaps I was born at the precisely wrong time, or more likely, I’m just in the wrong phase of my adult life to get even remotely excited about mediocre photographs of Basquiat, Warhol, Reed, and the rest of the Nico-through-Blondie years.
Augen Gallery, 716 NW Davis, Tues-Sat, through Aug 28.

Chicagoan Ryan Zoghlin exhibits work from his NIMBY series at Newspace this month. Said photographs “focus on the eerie margin where suburban and industrial areas meet.” Not to single out Zoghlin here, but jesus christ, can we come up with some new themes to exploit and explore, please? The collective work of Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, and their Nü Landscape contemporaries ranks among the best unofficial photographic movements of the 20th century, but I’d be more than tickled not to see another bland, rehashed, large-format color photograph of a parking lot, generic warehouse, airport, suburban home, dirtbike track, unbuilt neighborhood, or abandoned shopping center until at least 2013.
Newspace, 1632 SE 10th, Mon-Sun, through Aug 31.

QPCA’s group show, Urbania, continues through the end of the month with the complex photo-constructions of Gerald Slota. Using every tool at his disposal except Photoshop, Slota de- and re-constructs nearly indecipherable scenes of post-human realities. Using copy negatives, collage, negative deterioration, re-photographing of images in situ and other manipulative techniques, Slota creates some of the most digital-looking analog photos I’ve ever seen.
Quality Pictures, 916 NW Hoyt, Tues-Sat, through Aug 30.

Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, from the series Nocturne, 2007-8

Gentle readers,

My apologies for the leaden dearth of activity on That’s a Negative; freelance life is in overdrive at the moment, and I haven’t had the opportunity to compose anything substantial for the blog. My “to post” backlog is enormous, with half-written reviews of great shows in Portland and Seattle, previews of exhibitions in both of those cities, thoughts on several new books, and other tokens of photo-miscellany. Normal posting should return by next week; in the meantime, a few quick thoughts:

If you’re in Seattle, Isaac Layman’s show at Lawrimore Project is a must-see. There are a few aspects of the work I still harbor reservations about, but rarely do I have an ongoing mental argument with a show for this length of time. It’s as smart and bold as any gallery show I’ve seen in Seattle, and Layman is clearly an artist who has given the nature of photography a lot of consideration.

Next Tuesday, August 12, artist TJ Norris and I are co-presenting a mini-slide jam at a Pecha Kucha event, to be held at the corner of NW 8th & Couch. I’ve never been to one of these, but participants show 20 slides at 20 seconds apiece, so at eight presenters, it should be a wham-bam, visual overload of a free event. (Other participants include the project manager of Maya Lin’s Confluence Project; bike advocate Meghan Sinnott; and a former curator of the Harvard Film Archive.) TJ and I curated a jpegshow (formerly slideshow) that zigzags from Klansmen to Trekkies to hot air balloons. Hopefully we’ll figure out how to tie it all together by next week. (Event is Tues, Aug 12, 34 NW 8th, 7:30 pm [starts at 8:20], sliding scale.)

Noel Rodo-Vankeulen’s Nocturne series strike me as the antithesis of every tedious trend currently being played out in contemporary photography. I’ll defend my position soon enough, wishing all the while that I was able to check out his prints on view next week at Brooklyn’s Bond Street Gallery.

Lastly, what’s happening San Francisco? If a particular photo enthusiast were passing through in a week or two, what would said stalwart be foolish in missing? I’m planning on catching Amy Stein at Robert Koch; Double Exposure at the Museum of the African Disapora; RongRong at SF Camerawork; Lee Miller at SFMOMA; and perhaps Edwin Hale Lincoln at the deYoung. Have I missed anything fantastic?