Digi redo

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In the world of digital photography and collage, some people are maximalists and some people minimalists.

I’m thinking of Eileen Neff as a minimalist, who gets magic out of conflation of a couple of images. The world she creates is muted and without the physical presence of people, but through the windows or behind the scrims glow suggested isolated souls (shown, “Dickinson”).

The works in her current show at Locks were created during a stay at the MacDowell Artists Colony in 2002, and were inspired by poetry and Wallace Stevens, whose house Neff had visited on her way to her retreat. (She named the show after Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction,” and included the subtitle of the poem on the wall of the show: It must be abstract; it must change; it must give pleasure.) (shown right, “Thoreau”)

Fortunately, the photos transcended the inspiration. I almost always find it disappointing when seeing work inspired by previous art/music/poetry/theater, etc., and not by life itself. These photos were about more than the poets and writers whose names they bear.

The photos have a poetry all their own, and I find it a relief to see such considered work in a world where digitization has allowed images to metasticize and pound at your brain.

Two others showing digital works are Lisa Spera at Highwire and Robert Brown at Muse Gallery.

Spera also keeps it simple, but the kinds of pictures she takes are about places and things in time (shown, “Driving Too Slow,” taken on Rte. 252 in Swathmore). Each of Spera’s labels identify the date and place of the photograph. Some of the photos rose above the naming of places, and some did not.

Brown is a maximalist. He’s got words pouring out of him. He names his show “The Court of the Animal Gods” and his pieces (shown, “Animal Gods #6: The Vanquished Prostration of Id”) with a spate of words. Look closely at these pictures and you’ll see tiny images multiplied ad infinitum and multiple kinds of images under and over eachother, all taken from pop culture.

In terms of quantity of collaged imagery, he’s kind of like Josh O.S., another maximalist, but O.S. is going for the big conspiracy theory in the sky. In Brown, there’s an obsessiveness that assaults without providing a network of ideas in the macro or micro world. The work revels in the excess and wears me out before I can penetrate to some kind of meaning.

Of all Brown’s pieces, the two with children as the central image seemed to reach out and draw me in, suggesting some concern over how the overflow of imagery from our culture interacts with young people, transforming them and making them just another snapshot in the circus of images society generates.

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