Has there ever been a Photo Regional with sound?
This year, eight artworks have sound. Another makes sounds that are heard privately, through headphones.
Is this disturbing or distracting?
Absolutely not. That’s because this Opalka Gallery show is brought to you by Danny Goodwin.
34th annual Photography Regional
WHERE: Opalka Gallery, Sage Colleges, 140 New Scotland Ave., Albany
WHEN: Through Sunday, April 22. Gallery open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: Free
RELATED EVENTS: 1st Friday reception, 5-9 p.m. Friday, April 6; panel presentation, 5 p.m. Sunday, April 15.
MORE INFO: 292-7742, www.sage.edu/opalka
Goodwin is chairman of the art department at the University at Albany. An accomplished artist noted for his photographic, video and installation work, he has exhibited in New York, California and Europe. He was also one of 13 artists selected by curator Elizabeth Dubben for the 2006 Photo Regional, when the Opalka mounted its first invitational show.
Goodwin’s invitational is precisely and smartly curated, appealing to eyes and ears, as the sounds are carefully managed. And the 9-year-old Opalka, which is graceful, versatile and high-tech, is the perfect stage.
Goodwin picked 10 artists and an artist duo: Justin Baker, Tim Davis, Barbara Ess, Tara Fracalossi, Kyra Garrigue, William Jaeger, Kahn & Selesnick, Carlos Loret de Mola, Margaret Saliske, Georgia Wohnsen and Allen Yates. This is Baker and Fracalossi’s second appearance at an Opalka invitational, as they were with Goodwin in the Dubben show in 2006.
As intelligent as this show can be, it can also be a challenge for nontechnical folks.
Challenge for viewers
About half of the 52 artworks are fairly straightforward, but the other half are a mix of digital collage, video, mixed-media, images made with surveillance cameras, and lenticular Plexiglas (more on that term later).
It’s a bit mechanical and emotionless for those of us who don’t understand these technical processes.
There are no titles or labels on these works, just numbers. That’s aesthetically pleasing and keeps one riveted on the images instead of the artist’s bio or wall text.
So for nonphotographers and the technically handicapped, it is highly recommended to read the catalog and tote an exhibition checklist, both provided in the gallery, to better appreciate what you are experiencing.
The first images you see and hear in the gallery are by Greenwich artist Yates.
On six small screens mounted on the wall, we see video loops of repetitious action and sounds, including a man slapping his face and two soldiers operating a crank on a machine. The images are stuck in time without resolution, as if in a “Twilight Zone.”
Garrigue is an electronic media artist with a background in classical music and photography. Her videos are delicate poems-in-motion, intensely focused on the sounds, which change more than the visual images. In “Taste,” an upturned head and open mouth take in a changing stream of falling water; in “Listening (and Watching),” female throats are isolated on a black background, as we listen to them gulp, breathe and swallow.
The lighter moments in the show are provided by Wohnsen, who grew up in the Adirondacks, and is inspired by its culture and landscape.
In “Boys and Bears,” a 12-foot-long triptych in a rustic log frame, the faces of swimmers playing in a lake flicker and turn into the faces of black bears as we tilt our viewing angle. It’s made with lenticular Plexiglas, like those magical changing pictures that come in boxes of Crackerjack. Wohnsen is a real trickster, as this technique not only doubles the image but the interpretations of it.
There are eight large color photographs and a photo slideshow by Davis, a Tivoli photographer who teaches at Bard College.
His current project is a series called “My Life in Politics,” in which he investigates the nuances of that landscape without taking sides.
In “Arab + Jew,” he finds red plastic cups stuck in a fence that spell out those words; in “Circuit City,” President George W. Bush appears on multiple TV screens with a hand raised in the air like Jesus or Hitler and beneath the screens, a store sign that says “no interest in 12 months.”
A close-up of pink “R” stickers and green “D” stickers is beautiful in its composition and color but also has a message that could be sinister or silly when one considers the implications of those powerful labels.
The Opalka’s own lecture hall is a nifty setting for Davis’ slideshow. In “My Audience,” Davis turns his camera on his students, and we see them all, in every shape and configuration, staring back at him from seats in different college spaces.
The other tricksters in the show are Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, a photography act known as “Kahn & Selesnick” that creates fictitious imagery set in the past or future.
At the Opalka, they show 19 panographs, each 6 feet long, of scenes from the “Expedition of the Royal Excavations Corps, 1935-46.” Like H.G. Wells meets Daniel Boone, they blend fantasy (a man wearing homemade wings) and gritty outdoor adventure (a camp scene with furry animals smoking over a fire).
It’s all very effective and convincing stuff, as one longs to learn more about this expedition, and maybe even daydream about it.
Back in 2006, there were complaints about turning the Photo Regional, traditionally an annual juried show, into an invitational. This is the third edition of the Opalka invitational, and the juried shows continue as the Opalka rotates the show with Albany Center Gallery and Fulton Street Gallery. If you add them up, 41 photographers have shown their work at the Opalka.
“It’s not a big deal any more,” says Jim Richard Wilson, director of the Opalka.
As for the sounds and video at this Photo Regional, it’s just another sign of the times, as technology blurs and broadens the boundaries of art.
Remember last year’s Mohawk Hudson Regional and its six video artworks?
It’s time to take a hint from Peppy Miller from the movie “The Artist.”
“Make way for the young,” says the effervescent Peppy.