Reflections on Narrative

NARRATIVE, an exhibition of fine art photography currently on display downstairs at Studio Gallery, explores different realms of the photographic medium. Despite the wide range of thematic content and visual styles, all of these images compel the audience to ask: How have we come to who we are? The narrative varies from artist to artist. It can be the somber, black and white images Gary Anthes has captured of the Navajo Nation. It can be Jo Levine’s mysterious young woman, who gazes into the unknown, lost in contemplation. It can be Langley Spurlock’s self-portrait, which focuses on the part of ourselves we see the least often: the back of our own heads. In this show, two artists have caught my eye.

 (Left)  Back to Front,  Langley Spurlock & L. J. Amon. Photos Mounted on Five Wood Panels. 6" x 6" each panel. Five sets of five photos.  Inquire . (Right) Head of a Woman, N.D, Alfred Stevens. Image from  Cave to Canvas .

(Left) Back to Front, Langley Spurlock & L. J. Amon. Photos Mounted on Five Wood Panels. 6" x 6" each panel. Five sets of five photos. Inquire. (Right) Head of a Woman, N.D, Alfred Stevens. Image from Cave to Canvas.

Langley Spurlock’s narrative addresses a simple problem in his life: “Would you recognize yourself if you walked into a crowded room and only saw the backs of people’s heads? Unlikely.” Spurlock and Amon, his co-conspirator, went around museums, capturing the back of Spurlock’s head in front vibrantly executed pieces. While viewing this small series of photographs, I was reminded of Belgian artist Alfred Stevens’ Head of Women. Both seem effortlessly depicted, yet both are profound in meaning. The philosophy behind these photographs is wholesome to me. A simple question in someone’s mind can be resolved with art. I see Spurlock’s narrative as self-exploration. I will forever recognize him from the back of his head.

  Chevy Chase Lake Drive in one inadequate descriptive system , Page Carr. Multimedia. Dimensions variable.

Chevy Chase Lake Drive in one inadequate descriptive system, Page Carr. Multimedia. Dimensions variable.

With the back of your head facing Langley Spurlock’s work, you can see the swiftly shifting multimedia installation by Page Carr. Carr’s playback of her forty photographs captures the littering problem on the streets of Chevy Chase. As one image moves away, you are met with another image of waste. Carr draws inspiration from Martha Roslers’ series of photographs The Bowery in NYC, in which Rosler focused on the littering problem at the Bowery neighborhood in New York City.

With her interpretation, Carr considers the social and economic narratives behind gentrification and affordable housing. Says Carr, “I think about housing costs and development, and jobs people have and space people need, and things discarded carelessly.” It is very easy to see the direct effect of our actions on nature, and Carr’s call for attention is to be reckoned with.

The unique take on the narrative theme of these exhibition paint a diverse picture. The shimmering colors of Steven Marks, the black and white composition of Gary Anthes, and the emotionally driven photographs of Gail Rebhan are among others that transform the space into a sea of narratives. Juxtapositions in colors, compositions, and mediums between each piece allow the audience to comprehend the complex uniqueness of each narrative. Leaving this exhibit, I realized that NARRATIVE is personal yet approachable: it is unique to each, but accessible. It is a narrative of its own.

  The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems, 1974-75 , Martha Rosler. Photo installation 45 black-and-white photographs, baryta paper (prints 1999), 21 images and 24 photographed typescript texts, mostly in pairs dry-mounted on 24 black cardboards, 20.2 x 25.3 cm each, framed in 24 frames 26.8 x 57.3 cm each Edition 4/5 + A. P. Image from  Generali Foundation .

The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems, 1974-75, Martha Rosler. Photo installation 45 black-and-white photographs, baryta paper (prints 1999), 21 images and 24 photographed typescript texts, mostly in pairs dry-mounted on 24 black cardboards, 20.2 x 25.3 cm each, framed in 24 frames 26.8 x 57.3 cm each Edition 4/5 + A. P. Image from Generali Foundation.


Delfin Öğütoğulları

From staff contributor Delfin Öğütoğulları.