The almost-universal appeal of photography rests on its competing promises of documentation and subterfuge, and this year’s Fotoseptiembre shows exploit and explore these traits, with the occasional foray into more formal academic concerns. In the latter category, Blue Star’s mostly excellent Photoplus, curated by Lilly Wei, presents two sets of abstract “paintings” by Gwenn Thomas. Thomas uses torn scraps of painted paper, construction paper, and fabrics to create layered surfaces with 3-D detail. The more-recent works, which simulate simple color blocks and fields, but with their own tactile magic, will please any fan of de Stijl and minimalism.
Isidro Blasco turns photography’s great limitation — finite perspective — into a resource with “Shanghai at Last,” a large cityscape diorama that rockets skyward on a cluster of wooden scaffolding, resurrecting childhood fantasies of flying like a bird over streets and buildings — the title suggesting the relief and joy of a breakthrough or a long-sought discovery. But the biggest stars of the show are Oliver Herring and Sebastiaan Bremer. Herring’s life-size portrait sculptures are mosaics made from multiple photographs of the subject. “Wade I” is especially moving and real (and not just ’cause he’s nekkid), suggesting intimacy, frailty, and our current obsession with physical perfection.
Bremer’s giant “Day for Night” is a gorgeous black hole of mundane still-life elements, fairy-tale animals caught in a hunt, a Shakespearean skull, and flowers worthy of Narcissus — detailed in white and palest pink in what the artist calls a “layered pointillist” technique that creates the effect of etching. Somewhere in the back of this inky curio cabinet is a photograph (or more) and you’ll want to stare at it long enough to puzzle it out.
Also deeply enjoyable, if more traditional, is 6-Pack, featuring a half-dozen photographers from Mexico City exploring the medium as portraiture, psychological X-ray, social commentary, and as one artist simply puts it, “Artifice.” Evoking the double-edged sword of beauty — for human and art — our mythic tragic hero appears in name in “The Death of Narcissus,” ghostly, cinematic, black-and-white archival prints by Adrian Aguirre accompanied by an equally atmospheric artist’s statement: “The city has scenes of everything that’s possible and nothing at the same time. The city as a set for human loneliness in the comforting heat of mass media communications.”
Dan Sutherland’s graphite drawings, on view at Cactus Bra, are reminiscent of Romantic engravings, but geometric urban landscapes tumble into surreal natural boundaries, and strange plants and creatures seem to blossom from roadways. The slightly murky, unstable images contrast brilliantly with the historical feel of Sutherland’s drawing to create an art Twilight Zone. The mid-size and smaller drawings are generally more successful than the larger works, where the pencil marks sometimes become distracting, but the entire show is a bewitched garden that I recommend strolling as a precursor to the Blue Star show.
Through Nov 4Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
116 Blue Star
Dan Sutherland: Plastic Parasite
Through Sep 22
106C Blue Star