Subjective visions, revealing truths in related exhibits at the deCordova – MetroWest Daily News

Posted: February 9, 2020 at 2:50 am


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LINCOLN - Pioneering photographer Dorothea Lange once said, The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera.

Lange would likely have enjoyed All the Marvelous Surfaces, a thoughtful exhibition at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum that chronicles photography's evolution over nearly a century while reminding viewers that every photographer pursues his or her own truth.

Subtitled Photography since Karl Blossfeldt, it is a key component of Photosynthesis, an intriguing suite of three linked, ongoing exhibits that invite viewers to reconsider how they look at photos.

Organized by senior curator Sarah Montross and assisted by curatorial assistant Elizabeth Upenieks, Marvelous Surfaces features work by 28 photographers whose often stunning images reveal remarkably varied approaches that challenge traditional assumptions of photography's unbiased objectivity.

Yet their subjective visions nearly always reveals deeper truths.

She said the three shows were developed to explore diverse topics using the breadth of photos which comprise more than half the deCordova's permanent collection.

We want people to see this show for its wealth of images and installations, said Montross.

For his seminal 1928 work, Art Forms in Nature, the German Blossfeldt photographed magnified plant specimens in such exquisite detail his photos became a benchmark for the possibility of creating absolutely objective images that displayed natural aesthetic forms beyond the naked eye.

Using Blossfeldt's images as a springboard, this thoughtful show includes mid-century masters and contemporary artists who eschewed documentation for something deeper.

Six decades later, New England artist Maryjean Viano Crowe's 8-by-18 foot collage Reliquary - suggestive of an ancient temple altarpiece - featured romanticized women surrounded by flowers and vegetal tendrils seemingly suspended in realms of mythic splendor.

And in between, other photographers in the show produced a stunning range of work that revealed varied and inventive approaches to photography that would have made Blossfeldt's and viewers' eyes pop.

Montross, who also worked with land artist Andy Goldsworthy on his recent outdoor installation Watershed, has put together an ambitious and complex exhibit that offers significant rewards.

Like Goldsworthy's sculpted granite work, she described Marvelous Surfaces as volumetric, suggesting something with three dimensions, a term not often used for photos hanging on a wall.

Just as Lange humanized the Great Depression with memorable images of a Migrant Mother and Dust Bowl poverty, the photographers on display capture other places and times both real and imaginary.

In her large photos titled Converging Territories, Lalla A. Essaydi shepherds visitors beyond Western stereotypes into the lives of Middle Eastern women.

From the 1940s to 1980s, Aaron Siskind pursued his fascination with surface textures in photos of myriad subjects such as seaweed, human feet and lava flows in interplay with other elements that created visual conversations of subtle beauty.

New Yorker Neal Slavin photographed Americans in groups such as Boy Scouts and body builders, firefighters and cemetery workers as a form of visual cultural anthropology that documents their social hierarchies and raw humanity.

Marvelous Surfaces is indeed marvelous and observant viewers will find the history of modern photography within these wondrous images.

Montross also organized a five-decade survey of photographer Peter Hutchinson, an original land artist who, she said, deserves to be better known.

The first museum survey of his work in decades, Peter Hutchinson: Landscapes of My Life, presents more than 30 photographs and photo collages that reveal the growth of a multi-faceted artist who created gorgeous images of flowers and bread mold, American deserts and Mexican volcanoes and his imagined life as an Alpine goat.

The only one of the three exhibits comprising Photosynthesis to focus on a single artist, Hutchinson's Landscapes reveals an environmentally conscious innovator who fashioned stunning images in forms as varied as the landscapes he photographed.

Born in England in 1930, Hutchinson came to the U.S. in his twenties to study agriculture and has lived here since the 1960s. He has lived on Cape Cod since the 1980s.

Visitors can follow Hutchinson's progress as he experimented with video, underwater photography and merging multiple photos into more complex images.

Hutchinson's early work often mixed photos and text to illustrate ideas in a style related to photo-conceptualism that he dubbed Narrative Art.

For his inventive Long Point Project, he strung plastic bags filled with bread underwater so their undulations revealed the undersea currents. As mold grew in the submerged bags, Hutchinson's photos recorded the cycle of decay and regrowth in his own version of a scientific experiment.

By merging photos and text in a single image, he suggested viewers would have to activate both sides of their brain, to engage his work emotionally and intellectually.

In early collages, Hutchinson often incorporates polarities such as nature and architecture or growth and decay to encourage viewers' cerebral and emotional responses to his photos.

On the simplest level, Hutchinson's images are deeply engaging and visually stunning.

Some, like Shoal Beach Project, chronicle his extensive travels while others, like Disintegrating Landscape, document threatened environments.

In pioneering photos, like Apple Triangle from 1971, Hutchinson was among the first generation of land artists who installed large-scale artworks in remote sites, thus distinguishing himself from commercial artists working in settled locales.

In his most recent work, such as November Day: Remembering Summer from 2005, he combines multiple images to create a vibrant scene of striking beauty.

In Hutchinson's most charming photo, Gauguin's Paradise, his loyal dog named after the French painter sniffs among the flowers in a canine reverie most two-legged visitors will envy.

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Subjective visions, revealing truths in related exhibits at the deCordova - MetroWest Daily News

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February 9th, 2020 at 2:50 am