"Fred Birchman & Carolyn Krieg", May 9 - June 20, 2015
This exhibition features local artists, Fred Birchman & Carolyn Krieg.
Opening reception, Sat. May 9, 2015, 2 - 4 pm
In this show, which Fred Birchman has titled Reclamation Projects, we can take the term “reclamation” both literally and figuratively. The architectural and landscape imagery evoke dismantled and reclaimed buildings. The wrecking ball, a recurring feature, is used as a metaphor for destruction. It is also a black sphere of some mass that, either in motion or at rest, implies direction and/or static weight. Both are compositionally useful elements that Birchman uses well. The drafting table, a symbol of construction and reconstruction, and the plumb bob, used by contractors to build straight walls, are also related to building and are again the kinds of metaphors we seek in art wherein the imagery has implied but no specific narrative. It is easy to go too far with these kinds of associations. Birchman is, after all, trying to make a compelling painting/drawing, and he puts things where he puts them because they are “right” for the work. While he may be saying“… to hell with the metaphor,” this isn’t quite the same as saying that the metaphor isn’t important.
From the literal perspective also, Birchman is reclaiming earlier works that seemed—and indeed at the time were—complete. Looking again, however, perhaps months later (years?), he returns to the work and reclaims it by reworking all the elements, attempting to get to get it “right” (not that it was “wrong” but it wasn’t “right”). This is an artistic imperative that all artists are hard-pressed to resist. The impulse is very, very strong.
This approach, when it works, brings great satisfaction and the results are, somehow more important than getting it “right” the first time. The loss level can be very high, worth it though, when the work is as good as these. They engage the eye, they engage the intellect.
As a photographer, Carolyn Krieg’s repertoire is wide, covering architecture, landscape, people (occasionally), and a lot of animals. She likes horses, knows horses, rides horses, and owns horses—two as well as a goat (she has done some fascinating photographs of her goat). This show, though, focuses exclusively on photographs of horses.
Krieg travels widely in Europe and South America seeking, always, horses to photograph and ride. The images in this exhibition are black and white, pretty much straightforward, with apparently little post-photo manipulation. Well, there is always manipulation, but Krieg has not strayed too much from what the camera recorded, in that she has not transposed or added imagery; things are located in space as the eye would see and there is no distortion.
So, what has she changed, keeping in mind that what the camera captures is not always what the eye sees? Krieg presents us with a certain amount of “purposeful ambiguity.” In Tunnel for example, initially the image may appear as an “eye” with the horse and rider being the iris. The image, not being immediately apparent, kicks in after a few moments. (This occurs because the brain is hard wired to see patterns, so when presented with an arrangement of shapes that are not obvious, it seeks an intelligible relationship, sometimes several relationships, in its attempt to make a coherent whole of the ambiguous information. Think: images in the stars (the constellations) or in the clouds. In this way we attempt to make sense of the visually unknown)
Krieg also uses those tools that all photographers have at hand: selectivity of contrast, cropping, focus, and what is singularly important, the “essential detail.” She does these things very well indeed—the imagery is strikingly beautiful.