Picturing possibilities

ArtReview

February 10, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Lynn Cazabon's digitally produced large-scale color prints, on view through March 5 at School 33 Art Center, are surely what critic Arthur C. Danto had in mind when he defined artworks as objects that embody the meaning of what they are about.

Cazabon's works are about the death of film in a brave new world of digital media. Her images depict unwound spools of discarded celluloid. (All of the film depicted was recycled from actual movies thrown out by the Enoch Pratt Library because of a lack of space.) The images sprawl on the surface of a photographer's light box like skeletal remains in an open grave.

To complete the embodiment of the idea, Cazabon mounts her prints between two strips of metal tubing that resemble the top and bottom borders of an old-fashioned folding home-movie screen - making the print itself a projection on which one watches the "death" of film.

Of course, what is really at stake here is not so much the death of movies as the demise of a particular cinematic technology, that of celluloid film.

In the digital age, we may be sure, photographic images - both still and moving - will continue to be recorded, but as electronic bits and bytes embedded on silicon chips rather than as crystals of silver salts suspended in gelatin.

Cazabon's images embody this inexorable transformation - her images are exposed in a digital camera and transferred onto paper by a digital color printer.

The result is a wholly original photographic scenario in which all the elements fit together magically - films, movie screens, coffinlike light boxes.

School 33 Art Center is located at 1427 Light St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Call 410-396-4641.

The innocent age

At Baltimore Gallery, Linnie Greene's sweetly nostalgic images of sandy beaches and sidewalk cafes also celebrate an obsolete visual medium - that of the hand-colored black-and-white photograph.

Long before the invention of color film in the first years of the 20th century, photographers sought to emulate nature's pallette by hand-painting black-and-white images.

The first hand-painted photographs were tinted daguerreotypes; later the hand-painting technique was applied to a wide variety of photographic emulsions and printing processes.

Greene's photographs hark back to an earlier, seemingly more innocent age, when photographs still enjoyed, in the minds of most people, a privileged relationship to truth, no matter how obviously manipulated they were.

Today, photographs like Greene's, by the very obviousness of their alterations, remind us how problematic the relationship between image and reality actually is. They also point outthe magical spell cast by visual images - even those produced by obsolete technologies.

The artist mounted her pictures in frames made out of old, recycled materials that echo the weathered structures in her photographs - images of reality enclosed by "real" objects that also become images.

The show runs through Feb. 26. There will be a reception on Feb. 19 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The gallery is at 4519 Eastern Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and by appointment. Call 410-276-7966.

Art as big as life

A quite different but equally original example of artists using photography is Nancy Linden's exhibition of drawings, paintings and installation that opens Thursday at Resurgam Gallery.

In her last exhibition at Resurgam, in 2002, Linden created an installation of wall drawings, paintings and collage based on a famous Depression-era photograph. The work covered all three walls of the front room of the gallery.

In her current show, she again fills the front room of the gallery, this time with life-size or larger wall drawings of figures, many of them based on Depression-era photographs of Southern bluesmen. One is based on a 1950s picture of a group of women that includes the artist's mother.

Curiously, there are also several groups of photos that depict mummies, which the artist included simply because she found them beautiful, as well as a meandering line of copper tubing, wire and glass that winds from one group of figures to another across the gallery. These fanciful connectors seem to symbolize the pure act of drawing.

The theme of the show is time and its slow passage, represented as a continuum of past and present humanity that overlaps and mixes at every instant. In Linden's fertile imagination, time is not a barrier but a door through which the artist may freely pass.

Resurgam is at 910 S. Charles St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and by appointment. Call 410-962-0513.

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