Ampersand Gallery's Latest Show "Invariants"

Feb 10, 2018 - Mar 25, 2018Ampersand Gallery, Portland, OR

Ampersand Gallery's newest show is titled Invariants, a group exhibition of photographic works by Erin O’Keefe, Clayton Cotterell and Jordan Sullivan. Working in a medium that is at root elemental, each artist here makes images that look familiar but actually represent, by degrees, landscapes and constructs that are manufactured or manipulated. 

Cotterell’s washed-out city skyline, for instance, is devoid of specific details and yet the dozen or so construction cranes suggest creation in flux, a city redefined. It’s an image in line with a working process at once literal and abstract, one that records moments of human touch not Cotterell’s own but made visible through his eye. Ordinary objects—an orange wedged on top of a chainlink fence—feel mysterious and even sculptural, not because they are inherently so, but rather because they were found and captured. O’Keefe’s photographs create a similar sense of uncertainty. They depict tabletop arrangements that she makes out of colored boards, transparent acrylic planes and painted sticks. But the camera is used to shift these sculptural forms into a more ambiguous and open-ended spatial condition. Shadows and reflections are as present and palpable as the objects that cast them. Light, color and plane are used deliberately and concretely. They are, she notes, tangible elements that, mediated by the lens, become something more universal and abstract. An attraction to the elemental affect of light and color, specifically that of the Mediterranean, also inspired the photographs made by Sullivan while traveling in the Aegean Sea. Though anchored in a specific place, his photographs are distanced from this fact by a practice that also employs elements of poetics and design. A moonrise, for instance, becomes increasingly ambiguous as the only constant in an otherwise shifting series of lightscapes. Or the repeated motif of a frame encircling an island either compels us to study its color and form intently or question what metaphor the circle might represent. Each artist, then, seems not to capture the invariants that photography is proclaimed to record, but instead focuses on shifting elements of their own creation.

Photos and summary provided by Ampersand Gallery