Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., March 14, 2003
'Texas Photographers': Range of Colors
Flatbed World Headquarters, through March 29
The "Texas Photographers" exhibit presently on view at Flatbed World Headquarters originated at Blue Star Art Space in San Antonio. Mark Smith, the affable curator of the Flatbed show, saw the San Antonio exhibit and chose a little more than half the pieces and half the artists to bring to Austin. A fascination with things Catholic and things south of the border is a running theme in most of the work here, and the most impressive pieces are right up front, as soon as you walk through the door.
In two black-and-white photos by Neil Mauer, the immediate impression is one of tremendous depth. Lake, Mexico is a 46- inch-by-34-inch black-and-white inkjet print on watercolor paper showing an expanse of water that encompasses two-thirds of the picture, framed at the top by a slightly rolling hill and a somewhat cloudy sky and at the bottom by a jagged though flat expanse of black, volcanic rock. Along with Mauer's other piece, it is the largest picture in the exhibit, and its size, color format, and simplicity of subject create a stark, vast impression. Mauer's Apartment One, USA shares all the characteristics of Lake, Mexico. Photographed looking straight up from the courtyard of four short, worn city tenements, the clear sky, framed by the buildings, seems trapped within a set of hard, unforgiving lines. Together, they're stunning photographs stunningly presented.
Two other pieces in the show are of particular interest. One is a series of 30 6-inch-by-6-inch color inkjet prints on watercolor paper by Rick Hunter titled Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in which Hunter takes a day trip through the city shooting subjects that are composed of extremely bright, saturated, primary colors. While the pictures come off somewhat as a well-selected set of artfully arranged tourist snapshots, they are stimulating when considered as a series. The other truly striking piece is Kathy Vargas' The Living Move, Claudia, a hand-colored black-and-white photo of the face of a young girl framed by roses and thorns. While Vargas' use of color is intriguing, most striking is the subject, who appears ghostly and enigmatic, almost as if the photo were taken of a reflection or looking through glass, inside to outside.
Five more photographers are represented here, and while their work doesn't stand out the way Mauer's, Hunter's, and Vargas' do, all have something in common: relatively simple compositions that manage to convey a tremendous range of contrasting colors.