Light Space Color Motion

The exhibit Light Color Space Motion is the first public showing of work from the San Francisco Windowpane photographs. Below is a link to photos of the gallery and an essay that I have written for the exhibit. Light Space Color Motion continues through July 16 at the Las Cruces Museum of Art in Las Cruces New Mexico.

photos of the gallery and opening event

Light Color Space Motion,
Las Cruces Museum of Art, May 6 - July 16 2016
Carlos Estrada-Vega and David Alan Boyd

Perception is a fundamental concern of my photographic art. All of the photographic images in this exhibit are 'perceptual': meaning that what you see is what I saw when I captured the image with a camera. The Windowpane photos are simply images of the reflection/refraction in one or more plate glass surfaces and the Shadow Walking photos are images of human shadows cast onto a horizontal plane and rotated into a vertical orientation. And, both series of photographs are about perception in a deeper sense of the word.

Our human visual reality is a construction of the mind. As we walk through the world, our brains process the information coming from our eyes, plus the other senses and memory, and creates a model of reality. When presented with a disorienting cacophony of visual information (e.g. the Windowpane photographs), our brains filter out what does not fit into our constructed representation; when there is extremely limited visual information coming from our senses (e.g. Shadow Walking photographs), our minds struggle to put together a coherent representation and fill in the gaps with information from memory. Most of the time, the constructed reality works; it is close enough to allow us to function in the world. However, when the visual field is captured and decontextualized in a photograph, the fragility of the construction begins to become apparent and plays into a set of artistic opportunities: formal abstraction, and the manipulation of meaning..
Abstraction makes art possible. It is the consonance or dissonance with what is expected that causes the mind to notice. In the Windowpane photographs, there is a disconnect in the expected relationships between recognizable objects. The viewer's visual perceptions become engaged in parsing a chaotic scene that is discordant with our usual construction of reality; the captured photographic image appears abstracted. In the Shadow Walking ensembles, the human figure is reduced to a positive-negative field: a pattern of light and dark tones. The viewer is presented with an abstracted, spatially flattened, ghostly impression that is at once familiar and alien. In both cases it is the abstraction that makes the mind question, and shakes it out of its usual assumptions of what constitutes reality.

'Reality' is constructed of stories, and the human mind, in its never-ending quest for meaning, weaves a tapestry of stories from the connections between visual signs (recognizable objects associated with meaning) contained within the visual field. Because the Windowpane photographs capture light from a multiplicity of reflected/refracted surfaces, there is a mixing of visual signs from multiple, frequently unrelated, contexts, resulting in images that contain a randomization of sign-to-sign relationships that yield highly idiosyncratic cognitive connections from visual juxtapositions such as a ballerina in a bird cage within an urban landscape populated with colored eggs.... In contrast, the Shadow Walking ensembles provoke the generation of stories through their suggestive qualities rather than any overt visual signs, relying on random visual juxtapositions (the shadow figures within a frame may only coincidentally share context), mistaken identity (the humans casting the shadows may not be what they appear), and the patterns created through the adjacencies and groupings of images. Once again, the mind is left searching for stories that match the content of the visual field, in this case adding the contents of memory to compensate for the paucity of visual information.

The photographic prints in this exhibition were created using digital techniques. The images were captured using either a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera, or the camera of an iPhone, processed and color corrected in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and printed using a large format photographic printer.

Both the Windowpane series and Shadow Walking began with photographs taken with the camera of an iPhone, and evolved to include the more flexible DSLR cameras. Each camera a has its own technical characteristics, and I strive to take best advantage of the capabilities of each instrument. From a purely technical standpoint, the greatest difference between the cameras is the fidelity of light and color representation, and the flexibility in working with depth of field (a measure of the distance and extent, from the camera lens, in which the photograph will be in focus). The most interesting difference between the two cameras has to do with the form-factor of the camera itself: the DSLR camera attracts attention in public spaces, and causes modifications to the behavior of the incidental human subjects, while the iPhone camera is practically invisible and can be used with near anonymity.

Digital printing technologies enable the use of a wide variety of print media and have extremely rich color representation. Two print media are used for the photographs in this exhibit: a luster finish paper that is similar to traditional satin finish photographic papers, and canvas which is a traditional substrate for painting. The large-format digital printers used in making the prints have 9 colors of acrylic ink and create prints with a very wide color gamut (the range and gradation of colors represented). In all cases the final prints are finished with a matte varnish that both protects the prints and reduces the reflectivity. This, and the absence of framing glass, are particularly important, with images of reflective surfaces, in avoiding the creation of secondary reflections.

Finally, a few words about the relationship of my work to the paintings of Carlos Estrada-Vega. I have long admired Carlos' work, and when he asked me to show my work with him, my immediate response was "Yes!" I view my photographic art as having a very painterly quality, and showing with a painter feels very natural. While our art has many obvious differences, there are common threads that run through our work. Most significant is an attitude towards the visual perception of light, color, space, and motion, In this regard, the differences in our work, are differences of degree: differences in the level of formal abstraction and the extent to which the mind must rely upon it's own well of memory and experience to construct an internal model of the world.

David Alan Boyd
Sonoma County California
April 4. 2016