Sure, a picture may speak a thousand words, but can it create a meaningful dialogue between two strangers?
That’s exactly what Argentinean photographer and human-rights activist Marcelo Brodsky aims to find out in “Visual Correspondences”—a transnational series of communications that he initiated with four photographers and one artist.
Basically, Brodsky would email a photo to another artist who in turn would respond with another photo/drawing. These exchanges continued over a certain period of time, with each photographer/ artist using the other’s image as a point of departure for their own piece.
The images currently on display at the Slought Foundation are actually just the first few correspondences between the artists. Last year, the entire series of exchanges were compiled in a book of the same title.
Seeing what each of the artists instinctively took away from their partner’s work is fascinating. In some cases it’s as simple as a shape or texture being mirrored from the previous image. In others, it’s a whole concept.
If you approach the photographs expecting a story to unravel, you’re going to be staring at them for a long time. Just as you wouldn’t butt into someone’s conversation halfway through expecting to understand what they’re talking about, you must dissect their correspondences image by image.
Perhaps the most tangible discourse in the exhibit emerges between Brodsky and Brazilian photographer Cassio Vasconcellos. Right from the get-go, they seem to establish an unspoken agreement.
Vasconcellos sends an aerial shot of a congested highway that cuts through a bountiful forest. Looking closely, you also see there’s been a nasty car accident. Brodsky replies with a photo of a deserted winding road with a sign alerting motorists of a dangerous curve ahead (“curva peligrosa”). Though the next several images focus on perception and light, the idea of man-made vs. nature remains a central theme throughout their exchange.
As Slought Executive Director Aaron Levy explains, “Visual Correspondences” is more than an art project—it’s a social experiment. Hoping it could be the basis of a model understood more broadly, six students from South Philadelphia High School have been invited to take part in youth program organized in conjunction with the exhibit.
Similarly, the students explore the possibility of communicating through a purely visual means with peers they might not normally talk to. Some of their exchanges will be added to the main exhibit in the coming weeks and later this year the program will be expanded to a school in New York City.
Through June 30. Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut St. 215.701.4627. slought.org
Amongst the array of artistic curiosities unveiled at Crane Arts’ Second Thursday reception, Shannon Donovan’s “Motifs” was a refreshing departure.
Lining the corridor leading up to the Photo Arts Center, the local artist’s installations immediately catch your eye.
You are first greeted by a growth sprouting from the wall: branches—wrapped in ribbon and draped with fringe—protruding from floral decals. It sounds creepy, but it’s oddly whimsical.
The rest of her pieces are certain to conjure up images of your grandmother’s living room, featuring dainty ceramic shapes and doilies affixed onto vintage floral wallpaper patterns and fabrics.
Donovan has actually taken this to a more literal extreme with her previous exhibits, “Living Room” and “Rest a While,” in which she created entire pseudo-domestic environments using elaborated versions of similar motifs. She is also known for incorporating ugly everyday items like hubcaps and utility covers into her design schemes, thus transforming them into pretty ornaments.
It’s impressive what Donovan is able to do with a little bit of embellishment. At first glance, her installations appear almost seamlessly constructed. If you get closer, you’ll realize she’s manipulating nature more than she’s mimicking it. The branches and the heavy ceramic flowers seemingly blossoming from them are being held onto the canvas with screws and glue.
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