Art in Re­view

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The Curve: A Global View of New Pho­tog­ra­phy at the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts

Muñoz Wax­man Main Gallery at the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 1050 Old Pe­cos Trail, 505-982-1338; through Sept. 13

Santa Fe’s Cen­ter has long been a cham­pion of emerg­ing and es­tab­lished pho­tog­ra­phers alike. Each year, the not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion awards grants to in­ter­na­tional pho­tog­ra­phers, al­low­ing un­der­funded artists to pur­sue both fine art and doc­u­men­tary pho­to­graphic ob­jec­tives. Di­verse judges choose win­ners from hun­dreds of ap­pli­cants, sam­ples of which con­sti­tute the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts’ an­nual ex­hi­bi­tion The Curve: A Global View of New Pho­tog­ra­phy.

Doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­phers Justin Kim­ball and Inés Dümig, first-place win­ners of Cen­ter’s 2015 Pro­ject De­vel­op­ment and Pro­ject Launch awards, re­spec­tively, act as the show’s head­lin­ers. For years, Mas­sachusetts-based pho­tog­ra­pher Kim­ball has doc­u­mented a cer­tain brand of Amer­i­can dis­con­tent that’s sub­tle but as­suredly un­set­tling. A se­lec­tion of im­ages from his most re­cent se­ries, Brick and

Mor­tar, cap­tures strug­gling post-in­dus­trial com­mu­ni­ties in Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio, and else­where. In one pho­to­graph, a slight, el­derly man is hunched over a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing curb, his eyes in­tent and his hands, which are ob­scured by the con­crete slab, busy at some un­seen task. In another photo, a woman stands with her back to us at the in­ter­sec­tion of a small-town street. She’s hold­ing a broom in one hand, and a pile of dirt can be seen off to her right, ap­par­ently hav­ing been swept off the side­walk and into the road. Fo­cus­ing as he does on be­hav­iors that seem triv­ial and even des­per­ate, Kim­ball’s im­ages are un­avoid­ably sug­ges­tive of Amer­ica’s trou­bled and of­ten be­wil­der­ing so­cioe­co­nomic cli­mate.

Across the room is Dümig’s Apart To­gether. Dümig has long been pre­oc­cu­pied with po­lit­i­cal and so­cial is­sues, so immigration is a nat­u­ral choice for her latest body of work. Her sub­ject is Sahra, a teenaged So­mali refugee who’s made her way to Mu­nich, but now awaits pos­si­ble de­por­ta­tion. Dis­played in an art­fully hap­haz­ard man­ner, por­traits of Sahra con­vey her vul­ner­a­bil­ity and her iso­la­tion. In one im­age she’s rest­ing on a bed with her back to us and her hand cradling her head; nearby, we see her through a glass shower door ob­scured by rivulets of wa­ter and steam, and even­tu­ally we see just her shadow, pro­jected onto a leaf-strewn side­walk. These more in­ti­mate shots are in­ter­spersed with pho­to­graphs of dap­pled light on a tile floor, or a peach-pink apart­ment door — per­haps Sahra’s home? — with gold num­bers read­ing 203. The im­ages col­lec­tively oc­cur as stills from a movie whose con­clu­sion is un­cer­tain — an un­pre­dictable nar­ra­tive that mir­rors Sahra’s own.

Eight mod­estly sized pho­to­graphs from French artist An­toine Bruy’s doc­u­men­tary se­ries Scrub­lands hang nearby. Bruy, a win­ner of Pro­ject Launch’s Ju­ror’s award, be­gan doc­u­ment­ing peo­ple liv­ing off the grid in Aus­tralia in 2006, and since then he has trav­eled ex­ten­sively to cap­ture fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als who choose to live on the fringes of so­ci­ety. In one im­age, a tri­an­gle-roofed home looks like it was as­sem­bled piece­meal, us­ing what­ever ma­te­ri­als the builder was able to find, but its homely, ram­shackle ap­pear­ance evinces the cozy whimsy of a Hob­bit house. Es­pe­cially ar­rest­ing are a suite of three im­ages from Cu­ra­tor’s Choice award win­ner Chris Ben­nett. The In­di­ana na­tive’s Dark­wood se­ries is an ab­so­lute de­par­ture from the beaten path: un­peo­pled and de­cid­edly eerie. The im­ages be­come ever so slightly darker when viewed from left to right, lead­ing us fur­ther and fright­en­ingly fur­ther into a fi­nal forested scene that’s al­most com­pletely black.

For a group of im­ages with such ex­treme di­ver­sity of style and sub­ject, the pho­tog­ra­phy dis­played in The Curve is sur­pris­ingly co­he­sive and ut­terly fas­ci­nat­ing. — Iris McLis­ter

Top left, Justin Kim­ball: Un­ti­tled from the Brick and Mor­tar se­ries (Win­ner of Cen­ter’s Pro­ject De­vel­op­ment Award) Top right, Inés Dümig: Un­ti­tled from the Apart To­gether se­ries (Win­ner of Cen­ter’s Pro­ject Launch Award) Bot­tom, right, Chris Ben­nett: Un­ti­tled from the Dark­wood se­ries

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