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