Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Zaruba’

This weekend I joined the throngs of people who decided to make the most of the beautiful and rather abnormal Boston weather. I ended up walking down Newbury Street, where I came upon a new gallery I’d heard about devoted entirely to photography.  It is located in the old Chase Gallery space between Arlington and Berkeley. It’s actually their second storefront, the first being in Great Barrington in the Berkshires.


From the get-go, I was happy to know that there would finally be a gallery entirely devoted to photography on Newbury Street.  As much as I love the South End, Newbury Street is just much more accessible via public transportation and, depending on my mood, more fun to meander down.  Thus, it was with great excitement and expectation that I found myself on the second floor of your generic but still classy Newbury Street brownstone.  

Upon entry, the first thing that strikes you is that the gallery is very much a commercial enterprise, devoted to the business of selling art.  This is not a criticism per se, opening and running a business is an entirely legitimate venture, and I’ve never been one to fault people for trying to make money; it is just something to keep in mind, as it comes with costs.


The work that they are trying hardest to push is prominently displayed in both the front near the windows and in the wallspace that confronts you when you enter. It’s the work of Nick Brandt, whose Elephant with Tattered Ears shows up in multiple reincarnations, generally in grand, almost tapestry-level, proportions.  Now, this is not a bad photograph, the details in the expressive wrinkles of the elephant’s skin are clearly defined, and the sway of the massive ears is caught mid-motion, so it would probably hold up to some close exploration. That said, it just felt too self-knowingly epic, something that an interior designer would find and place in a spacious and modern living room of a wealthy client.  The picture would become a part of the décor, the person who was living there would forget sometimes that they owned the work, and life would continue accordingly.  The work is nice enough, but its depth and quality is out of proportion with how it’s touted; it is clearly there to make money.


Beyond this, however, the gallery holds some real gems, albeit tucked away in back corners, nooks, and occasionally on the floor. The work of Jeff Zaruba, for example, whose softly focused photographs document little vignettes of Paris that seem to tell a whole story, cozily lives in a crowded back space.  My favorite photograph, one that I think would hold up to years of viewing, is called Paris – Alone at the Louvre.  The small, dark blur of a person on the left is a nicely unexpected counterpoint to the large, circular fountain on the right; it offsets the balance of the composition in an interesting way.  The background is succinctly cut off by the rising building of the Louvre, making the image appear small, intimate, and manageable.  The water in the fountain, the softly focused lighting, the aloneness in what is typically remembered as a bustling plaza, all work together to give a sense of cozy peacefulness. Despite this, it is not a boring image, it doesn’t reveal itself all at once; there are a great many details in the laying of the bricks, the façade of the building, the variances in tone across the picture so that the viewer can always see and learn more.  It is not a particularly large photograph, which is key; it is an intimate picture for private viewing and contemplation.


On the floor of the gallery in the front, close to the large windows looking out over the street, are the works of Brigitte Carnochan.  Her works are gelatin silver prints (as opposed to ink jet prints like the two photographs above) which she then lightly and sparingly hand colored.  The effect is interesting and adds a nice allusion to the history of photography when Victorians used to have their black and white photographs painted.  The most interesting of the bunch was called Dancer I and shows the relaxed but oddly comported torso and a few limbs of a mostly nude dancer. A theme that might emerge from this blog is that when it comes to nudity in art, I want to be shown more with less. Just like the Amber Ray photograph from the Henry Hornstein show it’s striking. Thus, amidst a bounty of nude women sprawled out over black couches I found this photograph the most fascinating.  At first what caught my eye was the interesting compositional choices: she’s missing a head, most of her left leg is out of the picture, she’s hiding her left hand and her right foot and hand are doing something weird, oh and she’s sort of shuttled off to the side.  It’s really quite nervy.  On further examination I noticed that her only article of clothing is a tutu that she is using to cover most of herself which was colored a light pink, barely hiding the underlying grey. In the end, however, it was the odd tilt of her right foot, off on its own in the left corner of the photograph, which struck me most.  It further led me to notice the odd crunch of her right hand, reminiscent of the claw-like hand in Olympia placed suggestively over her pelvis. Ultimately though, I would have liked to have seen it without the colors, which were a bit too pastel for my taste and softened the blow of this really interesting photograph. 

There were also other pieces that I really liked, like the photograph Arches by Betsy Cullen or the Black and White landscapes of Keith Taylor and Beth Dow, that I don’t have the time to discuss yet. Unfortunately, they were mostly in the back, cloistered around Zaruba’s photographs. To sum, Iris has some really beautiful photographs, but it takes a bit of time and scrounging around to find them. Maybe that’s the right commercial decision, which allows the gallery to run in pricey space while still supporting artists with less broad appeal. All this said, the gallery only opened a month ago, so it will be fascinating to see where it decides to go.




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