Some people are calculated thinkers, understanding every move long before they ever make or think or speak. Others are much more intuitive and unconscious, they are about the moment and evolving from each one to the next. It should be said that regardless of the challenge of understanding no one way is more right than the other - just different - and the opportunity to compare is exciting. Julie Saul deserves a huge amount of praise for this reason; she has brought to her gallery two photographers that make photographs in these very opposite ways. However, they meet in such an interesting place. What Corey Olsen has in youth, curiosity, and novelty Zeke Berman has in wisdom, craft, and contemporaneous composition. Both are craftsmen of still life photography, painterly and heteroclite.
Personally my favorite thing about Berman and Olsen and their images is the first thing they bring to mind, unequivocally that thing is their history. William M. Harnett leads to Kurt Schwitters leads to Jasper Johns leads to these two contemporaries, Berman and Olsen. They are sculptors, collagists, and photographers. Aficionados of light, color, asymmetry, staged theatrics, surface, and the ordinary taken way out of context. It's a really great show! The works are solid at times and then open-ended at others. There is space to be filled beyond the elucidation and perplexity in the predicament of the photos juxtapositions. Admittedly they take a lot of time, the reward is so huge it seems insurmountable.
Garage Still Life © Corey Olsen
Corey Olsen will take you back to a familiar time in your life - long before complication - when imagination was so important. Back when you'd aimlessly shift through relics and the family tool chest or garage. Who wasn't doing that as a kid? You'd find all those strange odds and ends, tools not quite toys that blasted creativity off into endlessly unknown possibilities. Some of the colors were bright, others faded, smells of rust and dirt, a forgotten bicycle helmet, and all those cans of chemicals that served a purpose that one time. Olsen assembles his birc-a-brac almost too precisely; his lighting and perspective is nothing short of nouveau. Behind the immediacy, carefully controlled intent, and playfulness of the work Olsen expels a certain sense of quiet isolation. Being a kid in the stillness of Maine has clearly built a huge sense of explorative expectation in the young photographer. Olsen shares, "Maybe all the pieces make no sense. But my biggest hope is that people will discover things about their expectations of everyday artifacts."
Drawing Board Diptych © Zeke Berman
Zeke Berman is an illusionist. His photos are those of universally conveyed thoughts dealing with perception and questioning the very core of optics. Where does something end and beginning? Is there a front, what happens on the back? These are all challenging questions for a photographer - who deals in a two-dimensional finished product - to take on. "I'm trying things out and want to understand in the moment." Berman says. The verbal understanding that he has of his photos is not to be believed. The compositions are ambiguous, beguiling, surreal, and articulated. His still lives are accurately laid out forms, technical and exquisite in their quality of collage and sculpture. These photographs are seductive! Viewing them at first glance there seems to be something mirrored or symmetrical in their structure. Upon closer inspection the mystery of their seduction is revealed. There's nothing mirrored about them, just when parts seem to be perfect reflections something goes wrong, there's a shift, a change. The images have been designed only half symmetrical. In so many ways Berman's images become Joseph Jastrow's iconic duck rabbit.
Berman and Olsen are students of epistemology. Their photography allows for new study, understanding, and knowledge. These photographers are distant in years but a kin in spirit. Their aesthetics sing to one another, they are totally without time, and demanding of comprehension. The success of the work is reliant on the time viewers take.
Be sure to catch these two great shows at Julie Saul Gallery Through February 20th.
Garage Still Life © Corey Olsen
Letter Rack © Zeke Berman
Garage Still Life #4 © Corey Olsen
Web #2 © Corey Olsen
Garage Still Life #21 © Corey Olsen
Cubes © Zeke Berman