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Playground by Aaron Plant (Catalogue review excerpt)
by Terri Whitlock, Camerawork, Spring/Summer 2007

...Opposing forces of light and shadow are bold elements throughout the catalogue. They serve a formal function- to visually describe the peculiar shapes of playground fixtures- but the shadow also provides a compelling conceptual slant to the work. In the Jungian sense, the shadow is a kind of unconscious territory in which resides the repressed aspects of the self, the things that we do not wish to acknowledge. The bold presence of shadows intensifies the psychological bite these pictures have...



Weekly Picks (excerpt)
By Johnny Ray Huston

Fine art photography can at times be too tame: close-ups of dewdropped leaves and foliage or scenes of pastoral tranquility. On the flip side, experimental innovation can come across as too abstract, with talented shutterbugs using special techniques that are undeniably arresting but alienate the viewer from the subject. At this group show, however, Aaron Plant presents a happy medium between high art and accessibility with eerie glimpses of mundane childhood objects like hula hoops and playground structures capturing the dark side of innocence.



Playgrounds under the cover of night
by Amy Wong, Santa Barbara News-Press, 6/23/06

Words like "otherworldly" and "haunting" spring to mind while walking amidst Aaron Plant's More Playgrounds exhibit at the Nathan Larramendy Gallery. The gallery, tucked into the Oak trees off Ojai's main drag, is dedicated to painting, sculpture, works on paper and new media by emerging and midcareer artists.

The feel of the two-room space is decidedly modern -- crisp, clean lines and a rusty brown-colored concrete floor set a stylish canvas for the current exhibit and others to come.

Larramendy, an Ojai native who spent a decade in San Francisco, returned to the fold in 2003 to open the contemporary gallery in the self-described "obscure" mecca that is Ojai. The gallery's namesake also cuts a dashing figure in a smart suit -- well-matched to his space.

Plant, quiet and unassuming, obviously has much brewing beneath the surface. He used a medium format film camera to capture the images for More Playgrounds, all of which are beautifully shot at night, with masterful lighting touches.

The art ranges from small -- a two-headed blue dragon in "9:19/9:22 p.m., 2004" snaking in and out of a sandy ocean and shot from the front and behind -- to large -- a single baby-swing, child-less, forlorn and taking on characteristics of Eeyore, the brooding donkey, in "1:19 a.m., 2000."

All strive to create something other than what is expected at these normally benign, child-filled places -- the reversal of day and night turn their meaning on end, much like flying to an opposite hemisphere -- creating a macabre, sometimes "adult" transformation that teeters not on totter but on the very surreal. Plant mentioned that the most difficult part of the long-in-the-works series, which he began shooting in 2000, was scouting out playgrounds with suitable material, which by today's lawsuit-happy standards, are considered a sort of contraband. For instance, vividly painted metallic animal swings, 10:29 p.m., 2004, and a chain-link bridge, 11:45 p.m., 2003, both appear without any plastic candy coating of safety.

Most of the pieces of play-by-day, dark-art-by-night in Plant's photographs come courtesy of California -- specifically, El Monte, the Salton Sea and throughout the Bay Area.

One of the most haunting pieces is a video installation by Plant, Timothy Cummings and Shane Francis, entitled "Iodine." The three-channel video is 8 minutes, 40 seconds long and seems to have a touch of radio artist Joe Frank in the story line.

A young boy and girl play in a hallway before she leads him into "surgery," where she wraps him in bandages and introspectively goes to work with her surgical tools after ritualistically bathing her hands.

Common kitchen items -- a pizza cutter and a melon baller -- act as her "scalpel and scissors." Bright swatches of pink and blue elements weave through the video, bringing it together.



Past curfew: Aaron Plant's More Playgrounds invites you to hang out after dark
by Saundra Sorenson, Ventura County Reporter, 6/22/06

Across the street from the Libbey Park playground a child's oasis in the oppressive Ojai heat is what at first blush appears to be an homage to the chain ladders, monkey bars, and spring-loaded horses of youth: artist Aaron Plant's More Playgrounds at the Nathan Larramendy Gallery.

But Plant's photography casts communal play in a darker light as his pieces explore the liminal space of playgrounds between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., a time when as gallery owner Nathan Larramendy points out there can be no innocent excuse to be there. Repeating a sentiment expressed by gallery curator and writer Laura Richard Jenku, he acknowledges, "Culturally, playgrounds are forbidden after dark."

A smiling dragon by day becomes sneeringly menacing in the late evening, when little is visible beyond its spot-lit surroundings. The illuminated sand is washed out to appear snow-like, creating a wasteland of a kiddie playground.

Among the desolation, Larramendy points out, there is a sadomasochistic quality to many of the playground fixtures: the red "underwear swing," the preponderance of chains, the hanging rings that bear an uncanny resemblance to handcuffs.

Iodine, a three-screen video installation which is part of the exhibit, is a collaboration between photographer Plant, painter Timothy Cummings, and producer Shane Francis.

The film opens in a blue-lit hallway, where the pitter-patter of little feet alternates between each screen, sometimes repeating itself slightly on the outer two, hinting at alternate camera angles. The children appear sporadically, at times sporting animal and clown masks.

Then everything turns a little sinister. A boy naps near a well-organized surgeon's tray that is loaded with household instruments of torture: A pizza cutter, a meat tenderizer, a whisk and barbeque tongs lay in wait for a game of Operation gone awry. This indoor play, under the adult radar, is by turns highly imaginative and just a couple steps from depraved. A childish understanding of reality that everything is still negotiable blurs into cruelty as a young girl approaches her role of surgeon with a stern concentration, scrubbing her hands with the repetitive obsession of a real attending physician, demonstrating that in this world of role play, the performers have studied their parts with a child's intense power of observation. The film resonates with anyone who has ever taken a pair of scissors to a younger sibling's hair or terrorized the family dog with only the best of intentions.

"The installation was very successful at being able to reference each artist's individuality in a very cohesive way," Larramendy notes. As the theme of child's play is carried over, there are several visual references to Cummings' work, which alludes to Victorian aesthetics and features children in a state of self-transformative play cross-dressing or entering the beginning stages of metamorphosis. Pieces like "Owl Girl Lives in the Garden" and "Bird Boy" are portraits seemingly from the old school, except that children sprout feathers without a second thought. In "43," a young girl avoids puberty by swapping bodies with a Labrador (the poor dog is left to navigate cup sizes A, B, or C; the girl can run free).

For Plant, More Playgrounds is a natural progression in his exploration of the inanimate world's symbiotic existence with the animate; his previous collection, Alone, stressed neglected objects, like an upturned Baby Shamu inflatable toy stranded in the middle of an untouched pool. More Playground's evening backdrop also references his Nightlife series, where the after hours play of young children involved seemingly frivolous activities in a parent's van or out in the backyard, but then transported the kids to more grisly realities.

But where Alone played with children's tendency to neglect objects or leave them behind, Plant's Not for Children series focused on silicon sex toys, colorful objects of wonder that underscore adult obsession and fixation.

"It's really interesting with Aaron's work with playgrounds, how people view it," observes Larramendy. "Some people find it really playful and happy; I don't find it that way. I see it as much more provocative than this happy memory of childhood." But everyone responds to images of these highly recognizable spaces. "That's what's really successful about Aaron's work; it's this universal language we're all familiar with. People who aren't experienced in the arts aren't fearful about having a conversation about it. They're not intimidated."

And with the lengthened summer evenings, More Playgrounds is all the more relevant for the young somewhere between the Nightlife and Not for Children demographics who will venture into these deceptively treacherous spaces.



Reuben Lorch-Miller and Aaron Plant at Catharine Clark Gallery
by Laura Janku, Artweek, December 02

Drawing on the conventions of art history and movie-making, Aaron Plant directs his photographs into narratives of power and play. In Nightlife a young boy and girl interact in suburban nocturnal settings- the lawn, garage, bathroom and car. Bold lighting, cropping, pregnant moments, ambiguous symbolism and raw texture intensify a sense of danger or, more exactly, trespass children trespassing both physically and psychologically into adult realms.

As in Caravaggio's seventeenth century paintings, high-contrast chiaroscuro lends mystery and drama to the images. In Untitled #2 the children, one partially decapitated by shadow, are digging in the backyard dirt. What might have been playful during the day, takes on ominous overtones of grave and occult ritual. Likewise in Untitled #5, darkness cloaks much of the image, so that the contrast of the brightly lit children creates the effect of sudden discovery.

Plant's tight cropping removes other contextual clues, leaving portentous poses to our imagination. In Untitled #11 light suffuses darkness where two bare legs in the foreground of a garage approach a figure lying on the floor. The calm gesture, the heroic scale and luminosity, are both Christ-like and oddly reminiscent of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. But the disturbing details of empty pesticide cans, cold concrete textures, and ambiguity of relationship, confuse whether the standing figure is there to help or hurt- or a bit of both. There is a similar play on power dynamics in Untitled #8, where a game of blindfold invokes both a child's game and sadomasochism. Their Own Devices, a three-channel video, acts out some of the stills, adding the loaded cat's cradle motif, but still refuses resolution. Plant suggests a dark side of growing up in this newest series of work, making evident that truth will always remain scarier than fiction.



Aaron Plant: Playground

by Lisa Le Feuvre, Katalog, Summer 02

Aaron Plant is a young American artist who, since 2000, has been investigating the sites of his childhood in this ongoing Playground series of photographs. Born in 1970 in California, he has been returning to playgrounds where he spent time as child, photographing them with an technical virtuosity that recalls both the work of the New Colourists, such as William Eggleston, and the carefully crafted constructions of filmmakers such as David Cronenberg.

Plant's images are an investigation into childhood imagination. For him, these playgrounds were places of adventure and exploration where children could create their own worlds, with complex rules and social interactions. Playgrounds are defined as places for children and, as such, become a location where they can invent and act out a separate life from the adult world. Looking back to one's own childhood is difficult-memories will always be coloured with some kind of nostalgia, and will be filtered through adult knowledge. What, at the time, may have been an unselfconscious activity becomes reread through experience, and informed by the ways in which the past has been represented back. This is especially pertinent in the case of photography - both family snapshots and popular media fix notions of one's own past visually in a way that cannot be fully separated from what is actually remembered.

The playgrounds that Plant photographs were built between 1930 and 1960. Since the mid-1990s these play sites have been systematically closed. What were regarded as safe areas for play in the 1970s and 80s are now deemed dangerous, with no companies willing to insure these sites on behalf of local authorities. The replacement playgrounds are designed with a built in obsolescence, made in a generic style conforming to contemporary legislation. In the early half of the 20th century playgrounds were often used by architects to experiment with forms and encourage childhood imagination- each provided a unique site for adventure. The newer examples are from standard designs, with their intended short life removing the possibility for different generations to locate childhood memory in the same places. While certainly falling into disrepair, these playgrounds were built to last, and are no more dangerous now than when first designed.

This nostalgia for something lost is contradictorily both apparent and refuted in Plant's photographs. Using a medium format camera with flash these images are all taken at night - a time when playgrounds are deemed unsuitable places for children. After dark they become inhabited by teenagers trying out adult behaviour. In a number of ways playgrounds fit into Michel Foucault's definition of the heterotopia: a location he defines as existing somewhere between utopia -a desired but impossible situation- and reality. Foucault outlines, in his now much referenced 1967 lecture Of Other Spaces, how within one particular locale there may be various spaces that fundamentally contradict the nature of those other sites it occupies or borders. In the heterotopia unique rules and codes of behaviour apply, something that can said of the playground within a child's imagination. A climbing frame can become a city, the shadow cast from a swing a looming monster.

Plant focuses on playground structures-a toddler's swing, a climbing frame, a pink horse on a spring- sometimes being used, other times seemingly waiting to be used. Each image is captioned with the time when it was taken - a boy sits on a climbing frame at 10.21pm and a pair of swinging hoops awaits hands to grasp them at 11.46pm. In the populated images Plant works with his niece and nephew, photographing them playing under no direction, capturing moments of unselfconscious play. In an adjunct to this series, Plant has also made a three monitor video work (Their Own Devices, 2001) where the two children play in a park at night. The pair make a cat's cradle from string, build earth landscapes, and spin around in circles until they fall over dizzy. These everyday children's games somehow take on a portentousness by being acted out at night - the safety of the park and harmlessness of play become inverted simply by the time of day.

While not being carefully staged images, these recall the language of the 'slasher' genre of movies -such as Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978), Scanners (David Cronenberg, 1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984). This was a popular and ubiquitous line of interest within filmmaking during the late 1970s and early 1980s, causing much concern over the effect such films might have on the children who avidly consumed them, in spite of being too young to fulfil the Film Classifier's guidelines. How does this link to childhood nostalgia and memory- Plant's images are not reminiscent of reality - working in the same way as these movies, the photographs play with constructed expectations that something-is-not-quite-right. Childhood games are fueled by the imagination, where everyday locations are turned into spaces of adventure, just as the classic horror genre turns safe locations into spaces of potential danger. Plant's work recalls representations of reality, and as such these images are playing with the photograph as evidence. Obvious parallels to Plant's Playground series are Gregory Crewdson's Twilight photographs, and Sharon Lockhart's reworking of cinematic structures within video. Plant's work, however, seems to exist between construction and reality, leaving interpretations open to be made by each viewer.

The background fades into black, as Plant seeks to eliminate noise from the photographs. The characters look out into the enveloping night, becoming unidentifiable and faceless individuals. The very emptiness invites the viewer to map narratives onto the darkness. The images are formally beautiful - they become a study of space and negative space, and are reminiscent of formalist sculpture. A wooden climbing frame becomes a study of light and shade describing the forms Cézanne defined as being at the basis of artistic representation - the sphere, cone and cylinder. Plant's work sits in between the languages of formal artistic representation and references to popular culture. This liminality makes the photographs slip between registers, infusing them with an awkwardness that jars with photography's unavoidable relationship to lived experience. It is difficult to not to be concerned by these images, and to question what is happening. Photography far from mirrors what it represents - it opens up representations to interpretation.



Aaron Plant: Nightlife
by Karmen MacKendrick, Fotofile, Summer 02

And the images in Aaron Plant's series Nightlife do something unusual: they remind me that there are stories to be told, while they also remind me of the places where storylines fail, where imagination and memory alike hint at something beyond the tellable.

We can tell ourselves stories, however small, about these clear images: here are children dancing about on the lawn; here are children playing blind man's bluff; here is a boy washing his hands. Even in these stories something is uneasy; one wonders if it's really safe where these children are, wonders where or whom the adults might be. But I think these pictures don't just give us a sense of concern for these children playing in the dark or entering unsupervised spaces; I think they thrill us with the childhood memory of a world full of the spaces for making stories. Many of them hint at hidden spaces. The boy enters a door into a space covered in peeling grey paint; it may be a dumpster, but the girl inside looks ahead in apparent fascination at what we can't see. In two shots, they seem to be lying on the floor; he faces us, staring at her in rapt attention, but the background is dark, parts of the image obscured, increasing our curious urge to be in on their conversation. The children playing on the grass at night are smiling, even laughing, but the area behind and besides them is disquietingly dark. Other outside images make the nighttime even more mysterious, as the two seem to be burying something with a large shovel or playing in the almost-glowing strands of what is most probably a clothesline, but could to an imaginative child be a spider web, a set of climbing ropes, a cat's cradle for giant aliens.

So there is evocation, but not vagueness; there is danger, but not to the photographic subjects; rather, danger is evoked within the photographs themselves. The children's games hinted at here blind man's bluff, as the blindfold descends toward the boy's eyes; hide and seek, as he faces a wall and we can almost see her in the darkness at the edge of the image are games that are just a little bit scary, depending for their pleasure upon that which can be hidden for at least a little while. In some, the fact that we can see only parts of their bodies their feet, or their heads makes us still more curious about what's going on where we can't see. The images are as clear as poems, but like poems they hint at more than can be shown or said straightforwardly. They present us with the pleasurable danger of horror films (the psychological rather than the slasher kind), the memory of archetypes, the fear of the dark that calls us out into it. It's the tug on memory that takes us back to childhood when memory took us back just a little before; when the future was open with possibilities and some of them were there just beyond the edges of the picture. It is awfully hard not to tell stories about them, no matter how adult we may be just now.



Voice Choices: Nightlife by Aaron Plant

Village Voice, 12/25/01

Plant's staged photos of two blond children- a pre-teen girl and her younger brother- amusing themselves at night hint at privilege, neglect, and nascent sexuality, but they sidestep portentousness and go for something more allusive. Though Plant covers territory already covered by Anna Gaskell and Deborah Mesa-Pelly, his fantasies are more casual, more contained. But no less charged. If some pictures seem slack and routine, others connect with an unforced and instantly memorable sense of drama.



Aaron Plant at Fototeka
By Thomas McGovern, ArtWeek, 5/01

Aaron Plant's photography exhibition Playground series takes the normally cheerfully play area and transforms it into an ominous and mysterious place. Mostly void of people and photographed at night with a flash, the playground equipment becomes an abstract and surreal set against an inky black background, suggesting a foreign and menacing environment. These richly printed photographs create a tension between the beauty of the images and their disconcerting subject matter.

This presentation and style helps separate the viewer from the familiarity of the scene. Plant moves in close and creates images in which scale is lost, leading the viewer to wonder if the yellow and red triangular objects in 12:12 a.m. are six inches or six feet tall. Harsh illumination from the camera flash further removes the image from the realm of representation and highlights an uncomfortable feeling that all is not well in the playground. What is lurking in these deep black spaces behind the yellow and red objects? The sandy soil further suggests an alien, possibly lunar landscape.

1:19 a.m. shows a swing that resembles some sort of medieval chastity belt or torture device. Shaped like a form-fitting underwear with leg holes and hung from metal rods, the objects appear ready to hold and confine the sitter as it hangs from two shiny s-hooks. Harshly illuminated from the left, the seat casts an eerie shadow that looks like a cruel muzzle floating in space. The red paint is worn from the seat, revealing a blackish, pitted undercoat. Plant continues in this vein in the other photographs, until many of the objects become unrecognizable. His use of a single camera flash from an oblique angle forms a consistency in all of the images, creating deep shadows behind brightly illuminated objects.

The two images with children are no less ominous. 10:33 p.m. shows a young girl holding onto a vertical bar against a vertical pole. The child is holding on for dear life, which suggests that it is actually the poll that is swinging her. Her contorted pose looks like a cross between a seizure and a dance and is not comforting to look at.

The series is meant to play on our desire for horror fantasies such as slasher movies and murder mysteries, in which the viewer is allowed the vicarious fear of danger without the reality of mayhem or death. As such, these photographs are metaphors for an unseen evil world, the equivalent of the literary Doppelganger; and at daybreak these frightening places will revert back to benign playgrounds. As a child, I loved playgrounds but was often hurt on the giant metal jungle gyms and the splinter-ridden seesaws. As a teenager, I spent many hours at night in playgrounds, hiding from my parents, smoking pot and drinking beer. I have experienced the darkness of these places. In our time of over-protective parents, child-safe environments and lingering fears of predators, Plant gives us plenty to worry about.



Interview with Aaron Plant
The Stranger (Seattle, WA), Vol 10 No. 18, 1/18 - 1/24/01

EVENT: Adult Sex Toys & Children's Playground Toys, at FotoCircle Gallery through Feb 3.

What's the connection between sex toys and playgrounds? How did you get there?

I probably would not have shown the two together--that was a FotoCircle decision. But I think it works together conceptually. They're two completely separate bodies of work that address two totally different concerns. They link together in that they have playthings for subjects. With the sex toys (Not for Children series), I was trying to take a thoroughly loaded subject matter with its dirty connotations and present it in a clean and clinical manner; completely abstracted so the viewer couldn't tell what it was. And the Playground series takes a subject that's usually a place for children and makes it scary and uninviting and menacing. That's why they're photographed at night--playgrounds are sort of forbidden territory at night. Someplace you're not supposed to be. There are some photographs in the series that have children in them, but we chose not to use those.

It's much spookier without them.

Actually they're really spooky with the children. You never see their faces, and they're very still and stare out into the blackness. But it definitely gets into a different connotation.

The sex toy photographs don't look clinical to me. They seem kind of gooey.

It's more of a clean presentation. They have a very loaded meaning, and that's part of the allure of abstraction, trying to abstract the shapes and pull them out and make them look like something else. With both series, I have a real passion for the object itself. I think these particular [sex toys] are such beautiful objects. I love photographing them--they're so shiny, clear, and just gorgeous. And [the playgrounds], too. Part of the reason I wanted to photograph them is that they're disappearing. They're ripping them down and replacing them with these generic, new, safe playground structures. They all look exactly the same.

Some of the old playgrounds are pretty dangerous, though.

But fun.



Photographs and Pranks at Catharine Clark

By Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Examiner 7/29/00 (excerpt)

...Photographer Aaron Plant is lucky that visitors to the Catherine Clark Gallery encounter his subdued, creepy pictures before they see the zany inventions of Davis & Davis. Plant is showing pictures of playground equipment shot at night. A pair of rings hanging from chains in darkness look like instruments of torture. A trusslike toddler's swing casts an ominous mask like shadow on the ground. The playground as Plant presents it suggests the set of family film noir. The air of anonymity and abandonment he discovers in it looks like revealed truth. A step or two beyond the faintly sadistic atmosphere of Plant's playgrounds are mock sex-research contraptions by the team of Denise and Scott Davis. ...



Pure: 5 California Photographers

By Glen Helfand, San Francisco Bay Guardian 4/12/00 (excerpt)

...The loss-of-innocence subject of Aaron Plant's lush color photos of forlorn, isolated toys may not be surprising, but he manages to imbue them with an unexpected charge. He does this most effectively with an image of a hula hoop stranded on gray asphalt, a setting in which its diminished scale suggests extreme vulnerability.



Photography in the Golden State: Young artists bring colorful new look to the technique

By David Bonetti, San Francisco Examiner 4/6/00 (excerpt)

...Among the cool voices here, the most interesting is Aaron Plant's. In the four color prints from his Alone series, ordinary images and events from everyday suburban life -- two balls -- one red, the other blue -- sitting on the green grass of a back yard; a hula hoop left on a concrete pavement -- take on the ominous quality defined by David Lynch in his film "Blue Velvet".



Toying with Pleasure

By Conrad Hechter, Black and White Magazine, 3/00

The sex shop, that playpen for adults, is one place where the 'innocent' pleasures of colour and shape intersect with darker, visceral sensations. The work of Aaron Plant is another. Plant photographs clear items soaked in light. In this instance, condoms and sex toys, resulting in abstract works that are fun, but not for the whole family.

"I wanted to take sexual objects out of their context and create images that can be interpreted in any number of ways," says the San Francisco photographer.

His image, Untitled Sex Toy #1, captures the sensuality of the translucent toys. It also resembles the kind of sweet that can be savoured for hours in the darkness of the cinema. Pastel colors and organic shapes stir thoughts of those basic needs, comfort food and sex.

Plant's work is colorful and cute, amoebic, alien, and in the case of Deep Hole, anal. A close-up image of a condom, Deep Hole could be a body part, a secret portal to delight, or both. Says Plant, "My images are at the same time artificial and anthropomorphic, inviting and repulsive, drawing on the duality of human nature."



Representing Representation

By Siun Hanrahan, The Source Magazine, 3/00 (excerpted from a review of Reciprocity Failure)

Aaron Plant's Not For Children series feature translucent, colourful, and ambiguous sweet-like objects floating on a white ground. The prints are the result of digital manipulation of initially orthodox photographs so that the resultant images seem both seductive and alien. In their taste for the bizarre, these images bear the trace of a surrealist influence. What they reveal, however, in their refusal of photographic truth is simulated reality, not the surreal. Thus questioning whether we can still understand the 'image world' in which we live as referring beyond itself to a prior reality.

As Plant's images are unframed there is no clear margin between the images and the wall to which they are pinned. This, combined with the fact that the matt white ground blends with the gallery walls, allows the images to hover in the viewer's space, further scrambling the distinction between the real and the represented.



Pink

By Sarah Coleman, San Francisco Bay Guardian, 2/9/00

The hot pink neon sign at the entrance to the Catharine Clark gallery announces that this Valentine's Day-themed show is anything but traditional - don't look here for teddy bears or kissing couples. What you'll find is a far quirkier investigation into matters of the heart, replete with skepticism and a mildly kinky subtext. In Aaron Plant's delicate Cibachrome photographs, colorful sex toys are abstracted into strange, jellylike organisms: it's amazing how untacky these artifacts are when they're removed from their usual contexts. More ambiguous are the pink rubber cubes created by sculptor Jil Weinstock, in which vintage women's nightgowns and personal effects are suspended, like fruit in a Jell-O mold. The cubes, which seem to contain whole worlds of romantic hope and disappointment, are at once frumpish and beautiful. More tender, perhaps, are the paintings by Ted Arnold and Graham Gillmore, both of whom offer rich visual teases. Arnold's narrow, curved paintings give voyeuristic, letterbox glimpses into wedding scenes, while Gillmore's more humorous works combine glossy red surfaces with odd scraps of sexually suggestive text. For further sensual titillation, visit the Project Room, which has been filled with extraordinary sculptures by local chocolate artiste Joseph Schmidt - the smell alone is enough to entice anyone into this chocoholic paradise. Or on Feb. 12, drop in to the gallery between noon and five and get tattooed by the staff of Black 'n' Blue, a woman-operated tattoo parlor. Bring someone you love, or at least someone to hold your hand: remember, it takes suffering to create a great work of art.



Reciprocity Failure

The Sunday Times, London, 1/2/00

The title of the show is a photographic term referring to film emulsion's loss of sensitivity when exposures are very short or very long. It can mean a softening of the edges or the blurring of an image. The four artists- Aaron Plant, Tom Gleeson, Paul Rowley, and David Phillips, who all work mainly in video and photography- investigate what viewers "see" when confronted with such enigmatic images. Plant shows six works from his Not for Children series. All entitled Sex Toy, his colour photographs of everyday objects, such as rubber gloves, manipulate scale and context. Gleeson's exciting series of innovative C-prints deals with light and movement, their titles giving the onlooker just enough information to guess what lies behind the traces caught on camera. Rowley uses the lines from video stills to create new images. His large, wall-based installation consisting of a circle about 5-ft. in diameter, is made up of C-prints on compact discs. Phillip's R-prints, meanwhile, are eerie, enigmatic images evoking travel, movement, and dusk. Rowley, an Irishman, and Phillips, an American, whose work Suspension (Playa) is shown above, have been nominated for the Glen Dimplex award; all four artists, however, successfully challenge accepted ideas about photography's limits.



Four Fractured Views of Reality: Reciprocity Failure- Triskel Arts Centre, Cork

The Irish Times, 12/22/99

The photographs in this exhibition seem to share the same fractured view of reality. What is fascinating is that within the general air of ambiguity, the subject matter usually remains visible enough.

Specifically then, it is the manner in which the four artists have isolated and arranged their imagery which creates the visual camouflage. Tom Gleeson's photos of film projections and a TV screen proffer an undisclosed narrative where the actions of the on-screen figures become increasingly unnerving. David Philips shares a common interest as, like Gleeson, a number of his photographs are taken from within a moving car. In both, there is a brilliant arrangement between the boldly composed interior structures and the ghostly exterior views rushing by.

Aaron Plant's images are, in visual terms, quite graphic, as the objects are centrally arranged on a sterile white background. This clinical presentation accentuates the theme of "sex toys" - where the elaborate devices selected by the artist include at least the one red herring of a washing-up glove folded inside out. Paul Rowley's adventurous formatting of printed CDs has created the largest work on display. The arrangement is disorienting, so much so that what appears to be blood draining down a plughole cover, could well be a wildly inaccurate reading.

This challenge in trying to work out the image is the key to the artist's success, as photography is a medium which suffers from over- saturation. Being forced to disentangle the imagery serves only to draw you deeper into these challenging works.

 

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