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Spiritual Lake at GASPARD
It is rare to see a body of photographic work that is as compelling and original as those currently featured at Gaspard, particularly within the context of ArtPrize.
Cox and Bullard are in their 20s, but the collaborative exhibition features photographs that present the human form in a manner that is remarkably mature. While the images are staged, there is a confidence and candor to the compositions that skillfully balances the purposively artless snapshot aesthetic with traditional staged portraiture. Think Francesca Woodman, but in color and without the adolescent self-indulgence, or Cindy Sherman, minus the campiness.
The photographs feature primarily male figures set within a spare natural setting of water or shoreline. Absent of anything other than setting and figures, the photographs cannot be specifically attributed to any particular time or place. There is an implicit narrative, but it is a story impossible to decipher with any certainty.
Cox’s photographs are not compromised by a romantic treatment of nature, or a sentimentalized portrayal of the human figure. Quite the contrary, at first glance they seem impassive or ironically indifferent, as if the shutter button was inadvertently pressed before the model was ready. With closer consideration however, they exhibit a candid erotic intensity that resists vulgarity. It’s this tension that I find most compelling about the works.
Spiritual Lake is certainly exceptional in the context of ArtPrize for its breadth. I do concede that Cox and Bullard have the advantage of a single venue in which to display an entire series, but the individual images retain their integrity almost without exception. Generally those that feature young women as models are the least successful.
There are two elements to the exhibition that are puzzling: a carefully displayed collection of ephemera seems to have no clear relationship to the images, and the catalyst for the series, a poem by Bullard, is nowhere to be seen.
I encourage you to visit the storefront gallery located at 235 S. Division Avenue.
I am a mixed-media artist who's day job is teaching art and design history at Kendall College of Art and Design and Grand Rapids Community College.
Reports on: Art and theater (so far anyway)