Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Night Lights" review on the blog 'Publications by Simone Kussatz'






Images: (1). Bill Sosin, BACK DROP, 2006-2009, Archival inkjet print (2.) Ginny Mangrum, SUBWAY, Archival lightjet print (3.) Helen K. Garber, CANAL, 2009, Archival digital print on canvas (diptych)

"DNJ's Exhibit "Night Lights"

Written by Simone Kussatz
Edited by Peter Frank

Three American photographers currently exhibit their work at DNJ Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, Bill Sosin, Ginny Mangrum and Helen K. Garber. The exhibit "Night Lights" is a collection of night photography, made by using completely different approaches.


Bill Sosin’s “urban impressions” were taken mainly in Chicago, shot from the inside of his car in the rain, while his windshield wipers were turned off. We see droplets either resting or dripping down his window in different directions. Whereas the backgrounds of Sosin’s images - the streetlamps, red car brake lights, pedestrians on the streets underneath pendulous umbrellas or lonely objects in storefront windows - are out of focus, the raindrops on the windows are in focus. This dual presentation gives his photographs a pointillist appeal similar to George Seurat’s paintings. Although the exhibit is called “Night lights”, the lights are not the main subject in Sosin’s images. They only play a secondary role, creating the various colors in the water. And the water in its different shapes, either in liquid or vapor form, appearing in different colors, contain an energy which Sosin felt intrigued by and experimented with. Sosin’s images are not manipulated or retouched. He conducted small color adjustments on the Camera RAW file (a hi-res file format used by professionals) and altered the color and contrast of the images according to his emotional response towards them. Through the colorful presentation of the rain in a painterly manner, Sosin’s images appear positive and poetic.

The atmosphere in Ginny Mangrum’s work is quite different. The photographs were shot in black and white and then cut and pasted onto a black canvas in Photoshop. Hence, black dominates the images. As opposed to Sosin, Mangrum shot her pictures looking from the outside in. There is no energy like that in Sosin’s rain drops; instead, everything stands still. The interiors of the public places in Mangrum’s photographs, whether a hotel lobby in Honolulu or a cabin of the Bart station at the San Francisco airport, are empty and inert. Whereas Sosin played with the rain, Mangrum played with the darkness and the psychological elements of empty spaces. After several people close to Mangrum died, she experienced a sense of the void. This is reflected in her work, where she shows how powerful the presence of living beings can be by depicting their very absence. Another aspect that distinguishes Mangrum’s work from the two others' is her conscious choice not to take pictures of people who may have wandered into the frame, to avoid the tension that creates.


While Sosin and Mangrum focused on one city at a time, Helen K. Garber put two cities together. Displayed as diptychs, she juxtaposed images of Venice, California next to images of Venice, Italy. As opposed to Sosin and Mangrum, Garber presents her black and white photographs on canvas, which gives them a painterly quality. Garber’s work -- inspired by an old photograph from 1922 showing her great aunt and uncle sitting in a gondola in the canal in the Italian Venice -- are not just beautiful presentations of two cities. They deal with issues of globalization and Garber’s shattered image of Venice in Italy. When Garber visited there for the first time in 2006, she was shocked by the throngs of tourists in crowded corridors. Hence she regards globalization critically, thinking it destroys rather than adds something to both cities. This reflects in Garber’s work, which shows both Venices with the daytime tourists gone and belonging again to their permanent residents.

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