PhotoLA @ REEF

January 13, 2017

The 26th edition of PhotoLA was eye opening. It was not the photography per se which made such an enchanting pass at originality and human creativity, though to be sure it was there in spades; it was the utter awakening, more epiphany, of being able to perceive what photography’s role is in human artistry. Perhaps because of being inundated with such wizardry of capturing reality, however, pure or magical the intention was by the artist, I felt a sincere momentum in the placement of such a craft in visual art. It is, in other words, not coincidental that painting abandoned realism simultaneous with the emergence of film capture of reality. Only that, the thought of such an abandonment was made crystal clear as each gallery exhibited its photographic collections.


The most sensational gallery on exhibition was The Cohen Gallery. Not veering into experimentalism with the composition, such as providing enigmatic assemblages that would be dreamwork dough, the photographs on display were irreverently self-aware; strongly and comfortably non-conformist; portraying subject matter which was not normal but celebrating their sheer individuality in a whimsical way. It provided a splendid reminder in celebrating individuality, in championing what is different. The active yet gentle encouragement of originality is a pure and distilled reminiscence of imagination. By promoting creative beings, it is promoting creativity in itself.


The exhibition, of course, was dotted with galleries that were more or less commercial. Their prime interest was in operating as a business first, an artistic firm second. Thus there was an overrated menagerie of nude models posing as art. Certainly, if beautiful women portrayed in nature was a sincere demonstration of transcendence we would not need to know that these models were somehow popular. Affixing social qualifications to the stature of the females is meaningless gibberish. As time fades and they return to dust, the models will be unknowable by name and only by form. Thus, what difference does it make? To be sure, the compositions are scenic; but as-is they are mediocre.


Similarly, we had interesting compositions of old Hollywood actors in their natural state. No doubt it is original to see these people who when captured by the film are mainly being something other than themselves. Yet again, the fame of the actors is so central to the portraitures, even if the names are unrecognizable we have conveyed a sense of importance. These must be important people in their natural element. But then what? It is the photographic equivalent of kitsch to capture the essence of something so temporary yet no doubt aesthetic. It has, in other words, bare bones artistic value, a glimpse of beauty and nothing more, yet certainly provides the gallery with income to keep the lights on.


But this is to be expected in the marketplace. The rare almost miraculous harmony between transcendental art and making ends meeting occurs perhaps once in a generation. There is no reason to scorn nor pity those trying to break bread through artistic commerce. They enable the opportunity for great art to find a match, however seldom it arrives into human consciousness and therefore culture.


Thus what is the role of photographic art? Since it has stolen the thunder of realism from painting, we can say it provides a genuine sublime articulation of what can possibly be real. Thus, I repeat my words: it is a highly concentrated distillation of imagination. It captures imagination unadulterated by the medium. For what can be is made what is. And for the subject to be struck on the head with such pure sensation of reality, where colors are what they are and not constrained to the artist’s eye, where indeed the artist is treating what can physically be captured with his lens as clay to be molded, provides an elementarily qualified measure of beauty in every attempt. For each one is manicured so delicately to express something, something at the very least beautiful. To be able to create such charge between the subject and what he senses continuously every waking moment is something worthy of championing.


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