Theme: Looking closely (at rocks)

Juergen Bergbauer: 42 Studien (Print Detail) Installation virtual 2008

42 Studien (Print Detail)
Installation virtual 2008 – JÜRGEN BERGBAUER

I first came across JÜRGEN BERGBAUER earlier this year through a 5b4 –review of Bergbauer’s book: Studien nach der Natur – which I see has made a “best of 2009 book list” on 5b4.  I wrote about my interest here in a previous entry

Bergbauer’s project – Studies after Nature” has been on my mind off and on for quite a while now.  In Bergbauer’s work – the “final” images are constructed out of an archive of objects – specifcally found objects (rocks) – from the roadside according to the artist statement.  The “studies” of the archive are arranged in various patterns of which I’m unsure of (or if) there may be an underlying organizing structure – outside of an aesthetic judgement and arrangement although the constructions do appear to be bound to a sense of gravity.  None the less the resulting constructions are I think quite beautiful – but also quite artificial – and deliberate – full of patterns hinting at structural issues – yet not really resolving them in my opinion. I’m also quite amazed (although admittedly it looks too laborious) at the amount of apparent work done to “catalogue” all of the pieces which are incorporated in to the final studies…

Untitled (basalt - East Central Oregon) 2009 - Matt Niebuhr
Untitled (basalt – East Central Oregon) 2009 – Matt Niebuhr

On my own road trip this summer, I came across a section of land by the roadside in East Central Oregon, that I have one image thus far that gets me very excited to explore further but with a different approach.

What I’m intrigued by is natural dazzle of that which can be found out in the world (by anyone) as determined by the forces of nature – just by looking carefully or deliberately.  This is a theme that I am beginning to be able to discern as a thread in a number of photo studies I’m working.  Here, the fractures of basalt arranged according to natural laws – the horizontal fissures describing the shifting forces inside the earth – reminders that the solid ground beneath is not still.  I’ve collected a few shards of basalt and the shapes that are revealed in these shards amaze me.  I’m looking forward to trying to document these shards in a meaningful way.  And then, I’m really looking forward to the next road trip back to eastern Oregon.

Angela Strassheim / Cara Phillips – revealing invisible traces past / present / future

Angela Strassheim – from the series “Evidence” –  see a wonderful – beautiful “e-catalogue”


Cara Philips – Untitled #40 – from the series “Ultraviolet Beauties”

Two “new” bodies of work by two women photographers I greatly admire share an interesting coincidence revealing that which you can not see alone with the naked eye – but is none-the-less right before us.

Angela Strassheim’s work from the Evidence Series – reveals (potentially) hidden violence of past events through a forensic technique where by blood stains are made visible under special chemical spray. See the exhibition shots / photos here at the Marvelli Gallery.

Cara Phillips’ work from the Ultraviolet Series reveals (potentially) hidden damage beneath the skin as revealed through UV light photography of human skin.

Both sets of images are quite nice.  Of course I’ve admired Strassheim’s work before when I’ve seen it at the Faulconer Gallery,  Grinnell, Iowa.  Strassheim’s Evidence Series is scary beautiful and a bit creepy but also for me  touches upon how we tend to have to “cover it up” and forget the past sometimes in order to move on – haunting and mysterious.

Philips work is also scary beautiful (but not creepy) touching upon themes of beauty (or perhaps just what is considered beautiful these days) in human form and surface.  What will those “blotches” become in the future? Both record a series of invisible scars under the surface so to speak – yet one clearly points to things in the past while the other points to things in the “here and now” or even – one might imagine – a horribly scary future….

Wouldn’t it be great to see these (and other “invisible” work like this) together ?

UPDATE: – sidenote…  a funny coincident tangential post about “retouching before the day’s of photoshop” over here on Conscientious “…the photographic lens is an instrument of great precision, but it does not discriminate between the essential and the unessential…” source – page 6.

“The purpose of…”

Shed with blue dotted lines, Penland, North Carolina - June 1975 by John Pfahl

Shed with blue lines… by John Pfahl – series from Altered Landscapes

“There’s a great quote by Rauschenberg, who said: “If you’re in front of a good work of art, and you don’t change your mind about something, you’re a fool.” And so it’s similar, that if art just underscores that which we already know, then it’s not doing anything for you. It should present something new, some new frontiers for you, or open up some new ideas of thought, even if it’s a dumb reaction and you say, “I could have done that.” Just acknowledging the fact that you didn’t do it shows, at least, that you’re open to that kind of thinking.”

John Baldesari:National City – interview conducted by Hugh Davies and Andra Hales, Nov. 14, 1995 –

I often question if my “art” antennae is tuned in enough to receive a signal.  It’s frustrating when I find myself trying to convince myself that “this or that” must be something worth looking at, or alternatively, something worth trying to make – as if there might be a “standard” for appreciation… or the ability to decipher a “communique” in art.  This is especially apparent to me when I don’t appreciate a “sanctioned” work – what does that mean – am I really a fool?

The book, John Baldesari:National City is a good example – having looked it over, I appreciate the conceptual works – a challenge to conventions – the effort of the artist to convey a kind of information about how one might encounter art, judge it by conventions and “get something” from it. But after that, I’m done with it. National City seems to be too laborious and focused on “getting it” – after which I don’t think it’s something I’d want to or need to come back to. In short,  it doesn’t seem to stick with me. So I ask myself what’s missing?

I think I’m realizing this partly in contrast to looking at the recently discovered (for me anyway) work by John Pfahl – specifically in his series of Altered landscapes.  I think I appreciate this sort of work by Pfahl more because it evokes a mystery that I can’t quite understand. The best ones embrace an odd characteristic of photographs that transform spatial conditions which look very different “in real life” onto flat planes  which is interesting to me – that is part of the mystery for me. This coupled with the obvious added touch onto (or into?) the photograph seems just the right thing to do…