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Posted Feb 4, 2017, 1:00 pm
Turbulent, pristine and intimate is the range of the current show, "Terra Mater," by three Phoenix artists at Tucson's Etherton Gallery.
The main room of the Downtown gallery is dominated by the raucous "photograms" by Christopher Colville, created by the explosion of small amounts of gunpowder ignited on paper.
Pow! Whap! These pieces slam you in the gut.
The human forms (head, torso) appear to be blasted into incongruously blatantly gorgeous post-nuclear chaos. Closer, you see these black shadow images involve targets — a theme throughout in these pieces taken from Colville's recent series "Dark Matter."
You got it. Man is the target. Landscape is targeted. We're all screwed. Colville incorporates spent paper targets culled from, often, illegal firing ranges. His deconsecrated, terribly beautiful world is made of fiery embers, flames and clouds of etherial smoke. Gunshot literally releases kinetic color on the photo paper. His landscapes contain abundant tornados of light, the distant glow of a volcanic prairie.
Colville describes them as "luminous shadows whose clarity refute their violent creation...." And a beautiful train wreck it is. These unique pieces have their allure best at a distance. Up close, we are reminded of the technique by the smeared metallic surfaces and the image is lost. Step away and men burst into sparkling minerals, irregular orbs of exploding vegetation and black and white fever dreams of landscape.
One might overlook the slow burn of the simmering, quieter work sharing the space. Michael Lundgren's photographs from his Mater series demand a closer look to deliver their strong impact and content. They are large landscapes, many that refer to archeological finds. They engage. You enter the environment.
A stunning rectangle contains a black, perhaps starry night and a milky galaxy. The "Algaeic Fox," an archival pigment inkjet print, is of boxy grave hacked out of hard ground containing a green-furred corpse of a canine. There are footprints documented by the tread of shoe soles around the site and it is we who are the archeologists, the discoverers.
We find sublime sites and digs. One is a teepee frame consumed by light along with surrounding trees. Lundgren's shapes are easily identifiable yet otherworldly. He deals with order within disorder, the inevitable and the beauty of destruction.
In the entryway, Mayme Kratz goes up close and personal with mixed media works that contain text, graphite rubbing and small resin sculptures. Remember when we were kids and lay in the grass, looking nose down at the miniature worlds buzzing under us? Well, that's Kratz. These slight wall sculptures, (bas reliefs?) murmur rather than shout.
Of these poetic pieces she says, "... my work celebrates the endless cycles of change and rebirth in nature ... Most of the time I focus on beauty, sometimes on memory and recently on longing — for that which has gone missing — or what I feel but cannot see."
"Terra Mater" is a must-go show. Especially for those of us who think they really don't want to go to a photography exhibit because everyone and their dog is a photographer these days, Photoshopped on Facebook. Think again: these works are adventures not captured moments.