Brian Jacobson

CoPA Juried Show at WPCA offers a panorama of viewpoints

By - Dec 8th, 2011 01:04 pm

First of all, full disclosure:  As a founding member of the Coalition of Photographic Arts (CoPA), I know the organization and its people well.  I also submitted some works to this show, juried by renowned Chicago gallery owner Catherine Edelman. I was up against more than 450 other entries from from within CoPA’s ranks and across the Midwest.  I didn’t get make the cut. But that’s OK — the 30 photographers in this show are impressive.

It’s always interesting to try to read the mind of the juror of a photography contest, especially one of Edelman’s caliber. The 43 photos in this show, which opens Friday night at the Walker Points Center for the Arts, represent a wide swath of viewpoints and still provide a cohesive take on contemporary photography.

“What Might Have Been”, by John Morser of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, as seen at the CopA juried show.

In an introduction to the CoPA Juried Show catalog, Edelman notes: “From the moment we awake, we are surrounded by pictures that frame our daily experience, making photography one of the most familiar art forms. It is this constant exposure that makes it so difficult to create a photograph that is lasting and meaningful to a stranger.”

As I strolled through the two rooms with WPCA executive director Gary Tuma on a quiet afternoon, it occurred to me that the selected fine art photographers hold the image sacred in a world where online sharing of images has made the genre sometimes ubiquitous and tiring.

In the stillness of the gallery, each picture tells a story in mid-motion or coalesces a moment in time. In Milwaukee native Melody Carranza’s Clinic Day, AM, a large number of people in the city of Bucaramanga, Colombia, wait to be seen.  They are shot from above as they sit on those cheap, one-piece, white plastic chairs.  After you take in the spectacle, you move in closer to see which direction each face is turned.  This image has artistic meaning beyond the documentary, as “street” photography on a massive scale.

“un oiseau…Paris: Birds in Cages”, by Tara Bogart.

On a smaller scale, yet just as comment-worthy on our relationship with nature in the urban world, is Tara Bogart’s un oiseau…Paris, part of a series shot on a trip there.  A grid of small rectangular cages house small birds, with no further context or sense of place.

Edelman’s interests and strategies for grouping images begin to come into focus when you spend some time with the show.  Photographs from Eddee Daniel, David Gustafson, Ryan Lowry, Shelby Silvernell, and Sarah Stonefoot concern matters of controlled atmosphere and lines-of-sight. Chuck Koosman, Robert Marklin, Nate Mathews, and Bernard Newman go even further to remove recognition of place and time from their images. For them, the process of taking a picture becomes less relevant than finding a way to capture something more abstract.

The portraiture in this show leans toward foreign and working-class faces.  An exception is a series by Jennifer Greenburg, a Chicago photographer.  In Revising History, the artist has carefully re-created scenes that appear to be post-World War II era photographs.  The square black-and-white shots show flashbulb moments of baby’s first haircut and hanging out in the kitchen with mom.

The Coalition of Photographic Arts’ 5th Annual Midwest Juried Exhibition opens with a reception on Dec. 9 from 6-9 p.m. with a “gallery talk” from Catherine Edelman at 7 p.m. The show runs until January 21, 2012 when the WPCA is open Tuesday through Saturdays, 12-5 p.m.  For more information, visit the CoPA Milwaukee website.


Categories: A/C Feature 1, Art

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