Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Silence of the Limbs.


When temperatures soar into the thirties ºC any northern European capital plunges into tropical debauchery. Leave is taken from an otherwise stern working ethic and any dress code of decency, producing a particular brand of mindless street nudity and a tendency to drift towards shady parks, unguarded fountains or, in some cases, art galleries with airco.
On such a day I was to visit two museums in a row, partly for their being conveniently placed in front of one another but mostly upon invitation of Mrs. B. who wanted to introduce me to the work of one of her fellow artists on show in one place and catch another thing in one swift movement, allowing a sideways step in between for her customary 12 o’clock cappuccino and bagel.
Blame it on the heat, I was least inclined for pugnacious art criticism and of a somewhat subdued mood wich affects me still as I write about it the following morning, in the lofty greenhouse of my flat on the fifth (floor, not Avenue) , suspended between the lush park below and a perfectly radiant sky above. No potentially libellous ranting but a wish to find beauty and good on my path, to the point of knowingly chosing self delusion rather than self exertion. Set on not letting anything raise my temperature I do what any sensible soul does and let things roll over me with the least resistance because that would generate attrition which invariably turns into more heat. If this feels brainless, so be it.
Almost a parody of Dante and Beatrice, MRs. B. and I walked through the spires of a complex installation, narrow alleyways lined with impossibly large prints, steep staircases, down the pit and up, to end in the cool limbo of two rooms with a display of vintage prints by Karl Blossfeldt. Around us a delicate array of detailed close ups, botany specimen mostly, on seamless cream white.
With the crystal clear discipline of a Neue Sachlichkeit photographer, KB reaches a deep level of abstraction and poetry that may have exceeded his prior intentions but is too consistent to be put down to mere if blessed serendipity. Slighty mellowed by the stains of time and the occasional tiny tear at the edge or dust spot, his prints speak volumes.
I would define still life at this level as the genre that focuses on letting things reveal their hidden eloquent meaning, ie talk to us. It may seem a tall order, by why settle for less?
The same can be applied to all other genres in photography, like landscapes, portraits obviously, and the human figure. Unfortunately much imagery seems to do just the opposite: making things that are most eloquent often appear totally silent.