'The Small Corners of Existence'

Gimme shelter

'The Small Corners of Existence'
Courtesy of L. Nowlin Gallery

Photographers can quite literally change our perspective on the world. Depending on where they point their lenses, they can show us views of our surroundings that we've not seen before and get us thinking differently about the life we think we know.

Robert Shults is among that society of imagemakers, and with his solo exhibition "The Small Corners of Existence" – his first such show – he provides a series of uncommon, even unexpected perspectives on architectural elements in Austin that may have you reconsidering how you look at the buildings you pass daily. Shults shoots tightly composed sections of structures, focusing on vivid geometric textures and patterns in the elements of the design, the materials, and the shadows that play across the structures' surfaces. And frequently, he combines that focus with an unnatural tilt of angle, say, a roofline that we ordinarily see as horizontal or diagonal is shot as vertical. It pushes these already abstracted images further toward the abstract, and they work perfectly well that way, as artfully shaded, dense interplays of lines and forms, but they also push us toward seeing these spaces that we recognize as familiar – this library, this office tower, this fire escape – as suddenly and strangely unfamiliar. And when that happens and we're forced to examine these structures anew, we find that we can no longer take them for granted.

There was a time when Shults learned a deep and powerful lesson in not taking the buildings around him for granted. When the photographer came to Austin in 2001, he had no home and spent several months living on the streets. At that time, those structures around him that had their own primary purposes became for him physical, and in some cases spiritual, shelters, and he came to value them as such. Two years ago, when he was told he would lose his teaching job, Shults feared that he might have to return to the streets. But he put that anxiety to a useful purpose, going back to the spaces that had served to shelter him and recording them with his camera. The images become both his tribute to these spaces for protecting him and a means of showing others how these buildings serve their secondary and sometimes secret purpose for our brothers and sisters on the streets. In that way, "The Small Corners of Existence" is Shults using his art to give back, but he's giving back in a more tangible way with the exhibition as well. A portion of the proceeds from each print sold will be donated to Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.

"The Small Corners of Existence" is on view Nov. 3- Jan. 2 at L. Nowlin Gallery, located adjacent to Wally Workman Gallery, 1202 W. Sixth. An opening reception will be held Sat., Nov. 7, 6-8pm. For more information, please visit www.lnowlingallery.com.

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'The Small Corners of Existence', Robert Shults, Austin photography, L. Nowlin Gallery

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