"Matthew Genitempo and Schutmaat: Motor Chronicles"
These photographs frame the isolation and beauty of the American West but keep it at a distance
Reviewed by Caitlin Greenwood, Fri., Oct. 31, 2014
"Matthew Genitempo and Bryan Schutmaat: Motor Chronicles"Farewell Books, 913 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/473-2665
Through Nov. 24
Matthew Genitempo and Bryan Schutmaat create beautiful images, and "Motor Chronicles" does not deviate from the richly picturesque collections the two photographers have independently cultivated over the years. Both artists blend portraiture and large-scale landscape photography, creating an edifying approach to their subjects both as autonomous individuals and products of their environments. We've seen this before in Schutmaat's Grays the Mountain Sends, and a quick look at Genitempo's Instagram feed renders many similar images: serene-looking glimpses into the people and places that shape our country.
But "Motor Chronicles" shies away from broadening its perspective. In their work, both Genitempo and Schutmaat tend to capture an emotionless state. The people they photograph are caught in a glazed-over stare. Chairs sit upright alongside the straight wooden line of Seventies siding in a motel room. There are few personal mementos or touches that draw the viewer in. The look is heavily art-directed, so much so that the impact of the content is lost to the overall aesthetic. In short, the clarity of the visual, which is by no means an easy mark to hit, unfortunately overwhelms the narrative.
Genitempo and Schutmaat maintain a reserved and distant approach to their subjects, and it hinders the audience's ability to build intimacy with the work. This tactic renders the photographed individuals as placeholders to represent the larger canvas of work. Again, these pieces strike every chord visually. The colors are exquisite, the framing is just right. But in their perfection, there is a stagnancy. "Motor Chronicles" captures the encompassing remoteness of the American West but lacks the nuance that would allow these photographs to tell a greater story. We're left enjoying the images but craving more information about what makes these people and places so remarkable.