Friday, February 23, 2018


            Marcus DeSieno works mainly in the darkroom with alternative processes seen in his series Parasites in which he uses a dry plate method. DeSieno points out that with these processes, it differs each time and individual characteristics appear such as his fingerprints. Using science, DeSieno also combines this interest with the invisible to create works that challenge his fears (being a germaphob). In this specific series, DeSieno obtained contacts with laboratories, to shoot a variety of parasites. Although they appear large, the image is actually a micro shoot of these specimens. Fusing new imaging systems and old photographic processes, DeSieno uses the Scanning Electron Microscope to create the notion these specimens are larger than they before exposing it on a dry plate. Further, he exposes on a dry plate to avoid the coldness of a microscope image. The combination of the parasites as subjects and the photographic process of a dry plate are fitting in that the background of the images have a filmy substance from the chemicals that act as the “juice” from which the specimens could derive from. The way in which DeSieno positions these specimens gives them a sense of character and gives them life, although they are not and still forms. Overall, DeSieno uses science including alternative processes and microscopes to create his series.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Burk Frey reviews Michiko Kon

     Michiko Kon (1955-) is a contemporary still life photographer from Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. She attended Tokyo Photographic College from 1978-80 and has since earned collections and shows worldwide. Kon is best known for her monochrome images centered on surprising (and sometimes grotesque) juxtapositions of human-made objects with sea creatures. They address life and death, standards of aesthetics, and sexuality.

     Her newer work is less obvious, leaving more interpretation up to the viewer; nonetheless, I still found that her older images are more striking “objects of interest” even as they lack in ambiguity. Three of those older images are below, while a fourth one I liked (The Red Boot) is transitional while still hewing much closer to the old style.

Salmon, Flatfish, and High Heel (1987)

Goldfish, Salmon Roe, and Toothbrush (1985)

Cuttlefish and Sneaker (1989)

     I suspect that these images were even more arresting / shocking when they were created in the 1980s, but they still take me out of my comfort zone. 

     There is a certain “ick” factor in them, which is made more interesting because it directly contrasts with a feeling of mundanity that comes right before it. After all, these seem to be normal objects… but at second glance, Kon has twisted their presentation in some dark fashion or other. With a hint of sadism, she seems to enjoy this back-and-forth pushing and pulling of viewers’ expectations. I think the images succeed on that merit.

The Red Boot (1995)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Burk Frey reviews Pablo Ortiz Monasterio

     Pablo Ortiz Monasterio is an internationally successful contemporary photographer. Born in Mexico City in 1952, much of his work deals with the culture of his homeland, ranging from indigenous lore to current events. An early, decisive influence was French street photographer Bernard Plossu, who had created photos in Mexico (among many other countries). Monasterio is considered one of Mexico’s preeminent art photographers.
     I was introduced to Monasterio’s work through his 2016 book, Desaparecen? (They’re missing?), which confronts the Ayotzinapa College mass kidnapping of a few years previous (2014). 
Desaparecen? (cover) (2016)
     In this event, 43 student protesters were taken, turned over to a local crime syndicate, and presumed killed, possibly with the assistance of Mexican Federal Police. The kidnapping ignited nationwide protests and international scandal.
     The book is a sociopolitical work bravely, in my opinion, and unapologetically addressing / elegizing the disappearance of these students. Looking through the pages, we can sense Monasterio’s pain and righteous anger through his masterful photography and layouts. Along with relevant phrases, each page contains the number 43 on it, and the book opens and closes with the “missing person” portraits of each student. In this way, he begs us to remember what happened.

     There’s a further detail that I thought was both touching and subversive. The book was created in two editions, one as a typical art-world monograph, finely printed and bound; and one for $12, stapled and printed on inexpensive matte paper, so that it could be appreciated locally in the community where the students were kidnapped.

Desaparecen? (2016)
Desaparecen? (2016)

Burk Frey reviews Ross Faircloth

     Ross Faircloth (born 1986 in Dallas, Texas) is a photographer working in pinhole and non-lens styles. His images are unified by a desire to strip analog photography down to what he calls the basics — light, photo paper, and chemistry — to remove the artform from more documentarian efforts. He also sometimes incorporates pop imagery and mark making into his work, which runs the gamut from abstract to fully representational. This last bit was inspired by the constructed darkroom work of 20th century photographer Joel-Peter Witkin.
     I don't think that Ross' work is the type of photography that I would naturally gravitate towards (though a few of his images are appealing and quite successful), and I am drawn to the idea that an artist with such a similar background as myself — born the same year in the same city attending a BFA program at a school in the same system — could have such divergent processes and interests.

A Dark Place (Dark Grandeur series)
From Fault Lines series

     Of course these are all surface-level similarities; our childhoods, lived experiences, influences, and personalities are likely quite dissimilar. Yet I am still interested in how two artists of the same age, educational background, and neck of the woods could be drawn to these different sides of photography. Ross appears fascinated by the physical craft of darkroom, almost as a goal unto itself. I see darkroom techniques as tools to get art and story into the world  wonderful tools, but tools nonetheless. Neither approach is better nor worse; instead, other factors determine if the art we make is worthwhile.

Developer and Folds (Dark Grandeur series)

     It follows, then, that (to me) Faircloth’s strongest work is The Night I… (2010), excerpted below. This project has much more narrative “meat” on it; text is taken from the parole hearing of John Lennon’s murderer and bound with photos into book format. Punctuation and formatting were removed, and the font size shrinks in size every page turn, revealing more text. The massive colophon on the last page detracts, but overall I love the idea and execution of this work.

The Night I... spread 5 (2010)
The Night I... spread 8 (2010)
The Night I... spread 11 (2010)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Jesusa Vargas reviews Laura Aguilar

Laura Aguilar is a, mostly, self-taught photographer from California. Her primary work is portraiture, focusing on the human form. She challenges societal norms and idealistic views of beauty, sexuality, gender, and race. Laura is quoted in her artist statement, "my photography has always provided me with an opportunity to open myself up and see the world around me. And most of all, photography makes me look within". She has been photographing since the late 1970s and has, since, made connections with the Chicano Art community in LA. Laura identifies with the Latina and LGBT community and this plays a huge influence in her body of works. 

Three photographs that caught my interest are black and white photos taken in the late 1990s. All three photos include Laura in the image and in all three of the photos she is nude. In this selection, I feel she is speaking to the human body, most particularly hers, and the connection to nature at the same time celebrating the natural beauty of her body. I also feel the photographer is expressing her connection to two identities, being that she is both Mexican-American and Irish background. Laura captures the curves and creases of her own body within the landscape and creates photographic compositions that are bold and empowering for women of color. In each image below, the artist demonstrates a sense of belonging to her surroundings and among other women, as seen in the first image. 

Laura still has exhibitions, most recently at the Vincent Price Museum and has displayed her works in San Antonio in an art residency at Artpace.

Laura Aguilar Motion 56 1999 The courageous photography of Laura Aguilar
Motion #56, 1999, gelatin silver print; all images courtesy of the artist and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, artwork ©Laura Aguilar.

Nature Self-Portrait #10, 1996, gelatin silver print
Nature Self-Portrait #10, 1996, gelatin silver print

Laura Aguilar Nature Self Portraits 11 1996 The courageous photography of Laura Aguilar
Laura Aguilar, Nature Self-Portrait #11, 1996, Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches

Monday, February 19, 2018

Gabi Cruz reviews Jeff Wall

Important photographer Jeff Wall makes massive color photograph that appear to express how people interact in their daily life, but, are actually large production. Gripped in the cinema of the postwar era, especially the unusually chronicle arrangement of Neo-Realism, his acclaimed work includes making complex visual themes of telling stories, which he captures and then exhibit in wall-mounted lightboxes. “I wanted to exaggerate the artificial aspect of my work as a way to create a distance from the dominant context of reportage, the legacy of Robert Frank and the others,” Wall explains. “I saw something else in photography, something to do with scale, with color and with construction, which might be valid along with the more established values that had come down from the 19th century and had been extended by the great photographers of the 20th century.” Wall’s work is a wide range, and for many years has also includes smaller, documentary photographs and, since 1997, black-and-white pictures.

Image result for jeff wallImage result for jeff wallImage result for jeff wall


This week, I started looking more into the works of Keith Carter. I looked through images in his book From Uncertain to Blue, and several series on his website including Imagining Paradise and The Blue Man. His work is hauntingly beautiful to me. In almost every series, there is a feeling of a time long past, a remembrance, and a sort of sadness to much of the subject matter.  By only using black and white, it adds to the nostalgic and unearthly nature of the photographs, especially with his works using alternative processes like Imagining Paradise. While I have seen his work before, I have been looking closer into his use of color; the muted complimentary color work that is transportive, strange, and addictive to look at. 

With his Wet Plate work, particularly his series Ghostland, it is like we are looking into an alternate universe. One that is still beautiful, but dark. The titles alluding to stories and myths, the images leaving our minds to fill in the blanks. Seeing this work has made me even more excited to get back into Darkroom, and learn the wet plate process. I have been wanting to delve into this world again, but haven't had much of a reason to until now - and I'm thankful for the opportunity. 

Morning Rain, 2016

East of Eden, 2015

Homage to Bellocq