Friday, September 13, 2013

Landscape and Transformation

Photos of Doha, Qatar by Kristin Giordano and engravings by Paul Landacre at UPS

Weekly Volcano, Sept. 12, 2013
"Children's Carnival" wood engraving by Paul Landacre

"Transplanted Tree," photo by Kristin Giordano
Kristin Giordano’s photographs of Doha, Qatar at Kittredge Gallery on campus at University of Puget Sound are haunting, lonely and disturbingly beautiful. Paul Landacre’s wood engravings in the smaller back gallery represent a fine sampling of works by a little known but leading engraver of the early 20th century. Together they constitute an engaging exhibition.
In a wall-text Giordano writes about the strangeness of this place where modern skyscrapers and shopping malls are interspersed with vast acres of rubble and nothingness. She speaks of photographing the “places in-between.” It is a world that I imagine is foreign in more ways than geographically to most Americans. The images as sparse and monolithic. Most are printed in sepia tones, with a few in full color and a small group in tints of blues and browns. It is the kind of show one wants to look at slowly, letting the feelings that are evoked slowly seep in to consciousness.
Typical is “Georgetown, 2008,” a photo of an ultra-modern building set in a field of gray rocks. It is like something lifted out of a metropolis and set down on the moon.
I enjoyed the contrast of “Transplanted Tree #1” and “Transplanted Tree #2.” Number one pictures a field of widely spaced trees of a species I do not recognize. They look like giant pots caked with mud that has been left out in the sun to dry and crack. And the leaves sprouting from the massive trunk look like some kind of malignant growth. Number 2 pictures a similar tree but without the leaves.
Giordano’s photographs are quiet surrealism and engaging documentary.
I was surprised to read that Landacre, who was born at the end of the 19th century and lived until 1963, was considered one of America’s preeminent wood engravers. Somehow he got left out of my many years of art history study. It was a pleasure to discover his work for the first time.
At first glance, his engravings bring to mind the drawings and paintings of Grant Wood. They are highly detailed and studiously executed landscapes and figure studies with dramatic lighting that bridge abstraction and illustration. With his frequent use of fine white lines on a black background, many of his engravings have the sparkle of scratchboard drawings. The subtle manner in which he alternates between white on black and black on white is fascinating.
Some of his engravings are totally abstract and reminiscent of Lyonel Feininger and Charles Demuth, while others look more like book illustrations from the early 20th century. One of the more interesting pictures is “Forest Girl,” a fantasy landscape in which only upon close inspection do you see the reclining nude on the forest floor. Two other nudes, “Siesta” and “Demeter,” offer an interesting study in the ways in which Landacre bridges abstraction and realism. They could be two versions of the same model in similar poses, but one is realistic and the
[Kittredge Gallery,  Landscape and Transformation,  through Sept. 28, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701]

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