jul. 15, 2010 – aug. 15, 2010         Particular Beauty

Ilya Genin
Alice Grebanier
Simon Laufer
James Pryor
Maia Reim
Linda Sheehan


Some things are beautiful not because they conform to an ideal measure of perfection but precisely because they so freely depart from any such standard. These things distinguish themselves by the grace, and lack of self-awareness, with which they assert their own identity. Without setting out to do so, they flaunt our expectations and mesmerize us with their particular beauty.

Ilya Genin nominally photographs human expression. Sometimes it is a prolonged stare, others it is a fleeting smile. Closer examination suggests that the countenances he captures are a surrogate for a more profound subject: human engagement. Beauty, in Genin’s imagery, lies not so much in any particular face, but in the invisible forces that connect all of the multiple faces in his compositions.

Alice Grebanier finds aesthetic refuge in a cold subject. We know ice to be a hard, inhospitable solid, but her eye moves beyond the obvious to show us that material’s more malleable qualities. In her photographs we see that ice flows. We see this in sheet-like folds draped upon an underlying contour, and in rounded forms slowly launching themselves into space. In photographing ice, Grebanier does not photograph coldness … she photographs grace.

Simon Laufer finds beauty at moments when other photographers might rightly lament that they have been deprived of their vision. Laufer was not frustrated in trying to look through a rain-drenched windshield; he found beauty by looking at it. He noticed that water bends light. Laufer played with his camera’s focus to discover that the effects differ depending on whether he focused near or far. He often released his shutter at moments revealing least about the exterior space. He made interior photographs, and through these he opened a portal to an inner world. Laufer’s imagery is a Zen garden, delivering to us an invitation for inner contemplation.

James Pryor expertly traipses along a precarious path. He makes arresting photographs of animals – one might even call them portraits – that boldly engage the viewer in seemingly modest ways. We are hooked before we realize it. The contentment his photographs promise is rationally implausible, yet they do provide comfort. He provokes curiosity, strengthening interest in a vignette entirely of his making. And yet, because the sense of identity within his subjects remains intact, his subjects are not exploited and we do not feel cheated. We gladly plumb the depths created by this photographer’s quirky, manufactured authenticity.

Maia Reim haunts abandoned rooms, places where the lives of unnamed residents played out through domestic experience. The inhabitants have long since gone. Left behind are remnants of their choices. Reim mines these not so much to resurrect who those people were, nor why they chose this or that, nor the nature of their lives back then, but rather because she finds beauty in the state of their things now. Color matters as much as composition. Her imagery is thickened with an implied patina of experience. While we see these things and spaces in the present tense, they also carry a ghostly, muted suggestion of their owners’ final gestures.

Linda Sheehan is blessed with a vision that sees beyond function and context. The objects she photographs have little relationship to the subject of her imagery. Literal content is merely a vehicle for subjective expression. Yet her photographs are not pure abstraction. They retain enough information so that we recognize in them something familiar. Like those moments when we search for a word that is on the tip of our tongue but cannot quite find it, we intuitively know that we know the point from which Sheehan has leapt. Yet we have difficulty naming it. In relinquishing our need to capture what cannot be contained, we join Sheehan and unmoor our own appreciation of beauty.

Many paths lead to beauty. No one path is better than any other, although some are well worn and others remain untread. In forging their own way, these six photographers remind us that beauty is not a static destination. Beauty can take many forms. The most exotic of these may also be the most familiar. If we search among these, we may find yet more examples of particular beauty.

Ricardo Barros, Curator