Saturday, September 1, 2012

Absence and Loss at Flanders Gallery

Sometimes one doesn't know what is happening in one's own neighborhood.

I got to see a show of photographs at Raleigh's Flanders Gallery on the very last day of the exhibition, and I'd chalk it up to negligence on my part and try to forget it, except that the images were strong, often haunting, and very much worth noticing.

The show was called Terrains of Absence, and featured the work of three photographers, Mark Iwinski (see image above), Ian F. G. Dunn (see image below), and Jerome DePerlinghi.

Much of the work by Iwinski and Dunn, though not all, was made in the South, but the focus of all three portfolios was on what Flanders Gallery calls "the desire to investigate and document . . .  small traces of life, or histories and stories that speak to us from the past, as they are found in urban, natural, and cultural settings,  and endeavor to make them visible."

 These guys find traces of histories and stories in "architectural fragments, graffiti on crumbling buildings, abandoned houses, parking lots, tree stumps, and old photographs," all of which "reveal terrains of absence in our day-to-day cultural and natural environment."

Dunn's work documents the transitional in Southern culture, especially in the form of that most transitory, yet still ubiquitous, phenomenon, the mobile home, which in this body of work has lost its mobility as well as its livability, and is all too ready to reveal its inability to shelter us much from time's passage.

Dunn's images speak of Southern poverty. They also speak of the mobile home's flip side, the Southern mansion, which is supposed to be an embodiment of permanence, power, and authority yet is all too ready to remind us that all is passing, nothing endures.

I found Iwinski's work especially haunting, given its juxtaposition of old photographs and new ones of the same places. The hand is part of each image, a reminder that these images are not mirrors of reality but the works of image-makers. Yet time alters the image as well as the object the image works from.

Faulkner said that in the South the past isn't dead, its not even past, but these images remind us that what we have trouble letting go of in the South is not the South but our images of the South. Things change, regardless of our desire to hold on to them, and in that change is both the occasion for grief and hope.

DePerlinghi's images were in keeping with the subject matter of Iwinski and Dunn, but the images were Not Made Around Here.

This was a strong show. I regret I did not know of it earlier, but will try to watch out for Iwinski and Dunn as their careers develop.

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