by J R Compton
at Art Landing - 200 N. Marsalis, Suite 8, Upstairs, in Oak Cliff ( west off I-35 South at 8th, turn south on Marsalis ) (gone now).
Rarely am I as intrigued by a press release for a show as I was for Antiquities at The Art Landing in August: "The artists in this show are dealing with antiquities. Artifacts not from the ancient past but only gone a short time ago. Documenting treasures of abandoned structures that once buzzed with life. Things with the patina of the damage and dust of time, each with its own mystery."
Still, I was hesitant to to go all the way to Oak Cliff to see more art after seeing the very disappointing Black & Blue show at The MAC earlier that Saturday evening. So I dallied, had a talkative dinner with a good friend, then, when it wasn't all that late after, I thought I could make it to the Landing in time for the night's big auction.
Plenty time. Set for 9 pm, the auction hadn't happened by 10:30, when I left, so maybe it never did. Didn't matter. I'm glad I went. Except for a spare few amazingly talented illustrators like Sergey Chernomorets, the art at The Landing was its usual undistinguished self.
But the photographs were another story altogether. In fact, several altogether other stories.
Patrick Finley's subtle color silver and chromeogenic prints tell enigmatic stories of the people who used to live there using the abandoned personal details they left behind.
According to the gallery's PR, "Patrick Finley travels the midwest countryside searching out abandoned farmhouses, photographing the rustic exterior. Then, without disturbing anything, he creates lush color prints of the inside. Items from people's lives, for whatever reason left behind."
Finley asks, "Why did these people leave these things behind? Were they forced out of their homes? Was there some sort of tragedy? Why would a little girl leave her dolls behind? Why would a mother leave pictures of her children hanging on the wall?"
Looking at these photographs we can't help asking those same and other questions. The mood is at once quiet, nostalgic and uncertain.
One especially memorable print, Flowers, is a wallpaper field of tattered green and pink flowers, slightly interrupted on opposite sides by an ivory light switch and some wood clothes hangers. The composition is dense and delicate. It is a lovely pattern broken by simple shapes in contrasting, natural colors.
In Aspirin, solid, simple Fifties-style metal lines, a circular wall sconce, green and age-browned tan walls and a rust-spotted bathroom medicine cabinet direct our attention to left-behind aspirin, Dr. Scholls powder and other personal remnants.
Another telling visual moment is William, where another stained, tattered, this time aqua, wall leads right, into a nasty, dirty vertical smeared corner and a cheap framed photograph of whom we assume must be William, which seems to drool rust stains down the wall.
The Antiquities show's other story comprises a contrasty grayscale positive narrative told via direct, black and white photographs printed from scribed and scratched negatives of an old, unrestored architectural space.
Step by step, through what is identified on a big sign in the first photograph as "Pinkey's Warehouse," we follow photographer Shadi Khadvi's tour through the building down three walls, and around two gallery corners, almost as if we were following along with her as she explored the spatial relationships and stresses of stairways, corners, rooms, walls and missing floors.
The dark, black sketch-like scratches overlay the simple dynamics of the building's spaces and shapes in a form that combines simple drawing and photography. It's an intriguing, personalized tour of the architectural soul of the abandoned space. - J R Compton