Safe

David Faust and Joni Lane

March 22 - April 29, 2000 Opening Reception: Friday March 24 @ 8 pm

In their first exhibit in Boston since moving to Brooklyn, New York, Joni Lane and David Faust investigate the rich overlap between photography and painting. Contradicting the "Safe" notion of the title of this show, each of these artists moves the viewer into the uneasy role of a bystander or a witness, a role fueled by curiosity and suspicion of people they may not know and of places they may have never visited.

Faust creates paintings that appropriate the odd gestures and cropping of their source "snapshots" effectively obscuring the narrative in each work. He places the viewer at "..the intersection of banality and horror, when the veneer of the everyday is in danger of being peeled back." Faust paints his own family in monochromatic portraits that are as brutally honest as a driver's license photo. "In this context," Faust believes, "a face is the same thing as a place, and what is familiar and comforting becomes filled with uncertainty and fear." The larger, strangely quiet landscapes of backyards, riverbeds and lonely roads are virtuoso works; loaded with haunting qualities that cannot be tied to the static imagery, they remain open-ended and provocative. Like an unsolved crime, these deep pictorial spaces give us no specific evidence of "...the accumulation of all that has happened there, [but] if we look long enough the stuff comes seeping up".

 

Lane uses the documentary associations of photography to remove us from a known environment and to make its inherent artificiality apparent. Lane's flat footed photographic approach takes us out of the scene, makes us observers, subtly redirecting attention away from the subject of her work (a walrus swimming, a hanging target, a playground etc...) and toward a reevaluation of the environment "containing" it. Lane chooses to photograph places where we "...invent a fantasy of control, be it in the confines of a shooting range, the deliberate architecture of a playground or the simulated environment of an aquarium. By manipulating these environments, we assume a certain level of safety and comfort. The reality, of course, is quite different". Lane's redirection from subject to environment reveals a shared interest with contemporary painting, and the recent photographic work of Uta Barth and Hiroshi Sugimoto, that is concerned with the psychological effects of a space, or the implications of the history of a place. Lane reverses Richter's borrowing of photographic artifacts and employs painterly, atmospheric effects that are targeted more effectively than the ubiquitous "soft focus" blurring of a photo to resemble a painted work. Lane instead blurs the idea of the photograph as a purely documentary tool and uses the distance, the objective removal from reality that photography possesses, to call into question the environments depicted. As she states, "This series... is about the illusion of control. These spaces are metaphors of our limitations. They are examples of the distance between what we want life to be and the way life really is. It is safer to observe than to participate".

Considering the unsettling emotions that the artists' works generate through seemingly innocent imagery, one doubts if even observing is completely "safe".

--James Hull

 


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