Walk into the main gallery at the Lux Center for the Arts and you’ll see ceramic vases, brightly colored bird sculptures, paper shot full of holes and a lawn chair next to a small cooler full of Budweiser beer cans.
That jumble immediately raises the in-what-way-do-these-fit-together question. The answer is -- thematically and materially -- they don't.
But they can be linked as the seven artists from around the U.S. and Austria’s Aldo Tolino explore the space between photography and sculpture.
That’s the intent of “Dynamic Range,” the Lux’s Lincoln PhotoFest exhibition. Sharply curated by Bri Murphy, the show covers a range of techniques that not only combine photography with a three-dimensional element but explore imagery from portrait to abstraction.
Take, for example, the vases of Peter Olson, a Pennsylvania photographer, who shoots the pictures, then transfers them to the ceramics via prints that burn away. That leaves a reddish iron oxide image on the vessels that, instantly and intentionally, bring to mind ancient Greek jars and vases.
But the images, tiny portraits and wide shots of crowds, are contemporary, creating a study in the perception of the people from thousands of years ago to today.
The bird sculptures come from Brooklyn, New York's Oliver Herring, who crafts his bluebirds with C-print photographs that are placed on various kinds of board support and manipulated into striking, colorful pieces.
The paper full of holes is part of “The Void,” a series by Garrett O. Hansen of Lexington, Kentucky, that explores American gun culture by creating images of bullet holes. There are three pictures each titled with the caliber of the firearm that made the hole and a shot of “Bullet #1” on the walls along with a pair of large hanging, clearly sculptural pieces.
American culture is also the subject of the piece that incorporates the lawn chair and beer cans. It's an installation by Kansas City’s Kate Horvat, titled “Who Knows America?”, that’s a take on American desire, with the Bud “America” label cans explicitly making that point while a kaleidoscopic screenprint on fabric of various fireworks on the wall shows what the obnoxious Americans are watching from the lawn chair.
Tolino’s pieces are folded ink jet prints that transform and distort photographs of faces, breaking them into squares and pulling them out of proportion as he utilizes data to create the imagery and the folding to move into three dimensions.
Lincoln’s Chadric Devin works in similar fashion on his two pieces that are concerned with the male body and athletics. In one, titled “Back (Behind)," the Van Dyke brown print is on Japanese kozo paper, thickened with athletic tape. In the second, an evocative, full length self-portrait, the print is on the thick white tape used to wrap ankles -- something I’ve not previously seen.
Brooklyn’s Ryan Oskin brings together photography, video and sculpture with his two pieces -- “Tension,” a vinyl print of a giant blue bag on the front of a building under construction, that’s hung on the wall via bungee cords like those holding the bag, and “Sand Displacement” -- a video of the artist pouring sand through a funnel created out of print into a traffic cone, with the actual piece sitting on the floor nearby.
The most purely sculptural work comes from Pittsburgh’s April Friges, who uses photosensitive paper in the darkroom to create pure, colored images, then uses a plaster-like material to manipulate the flat paper into rounded three-dimensional forms that sit on a pedestal and lean against a gallery wall.
The grouping of the eight artists work and the combination of photography and sculpture make “Dynamic Range” the most challenging and diverse PhotoFest exhibition that I’ve seen. And some of the individual works are captivating and thought-provoking. That’s the measure of one of the best shows in Lincoln in early 2017.