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Sally Gall: Subterranea
Catherine Edelman Gallery
Subterranea: the depths, the dark places, holding an allure whose roots are age-old, and which still moves us today. Sally Gall: Subterranea, fifteen photographs at Catherine Edelman Gallery, presents the drama of contrast -- stone and plant, light and shadow -- allied with the appeal of mysterious and beautiful surroundings.
These are safe places, beautiful places, composed with a marked sense of calm. Their natural drama is heightened by Gall's choice balancing of light and shadow. In Thirst (gelatin silver print: 36" x 28":2001) the light moves sleekly down the long cascade of tree roots, growing gradually dimmer as they touch bottom. What is already a striking natural growth becomes a mediation between the intense radiance of the orifice and the profound darkness of the chamber. Thirst and other works in this showing invoke the privilege of peering into mysteries revealed... but not entirely revealed.
The artist describes her work in Subterranea as having "left the horizon behind and entered the inner outdoors, where known boundaries disappear and night and day somehow manage to coexist." These meditations on the "inner outdoors" touch a psychological level that, surely, dates back to our Neolithic ancestors, for whom such shelter could represent life, survival. Oasis (gelatin silver print: 28" x 28": 1999) embraces a yearning for the light, that curiousity about what is framed beyond the threshold of the irregular opening; yet also, the craving to see what is in the shadows, and to, at times, take comfort and seclusion there. Pause (gelatin silver print: 28" x 28": 2001) too shows an ancient refuge, the illumination revealing the lit crescents of steps, time-worn, communicating between the underground chamber and the fissure above: treasure chamber, hideaway, sanctuary.
In other works, darkness itself, or physical walls, press in closely. These more tunnel-like spaces call up thoughts of exploration. Frontier (gelatin silver print: 28" x 28": 1999) can be seen either as a movement forward, from darkness into the relief of light, the promise of open space and air; or as a reassuring glance backward before heading into the shadowy unknown. The quarry tunnel in Aqueduct I (gelatin silver print: 28" x 28": 1999) has a similar feel, its even, man-hewn curvature beckoning the viewer forward into the vertical slit of light -- or serving as a reminder to the delver of what lies at the surface, and to what he will return.
At times the pleasure of Subterranea is in the natural forms themselves. The wavy, water-worn limestone in Shift (gelatin silver print: 28" x 28": 1999) has a sensuously curvy quality, the swaying rhythm of the orifice balanced by the left-hand bank of the water below. Safe Light (gelatin silver print: 28" x 28": 1999) intrigues with its array of textures, from the tactile irregularity of the leftmost cave wall to the heavy, cool smoothness of the still water, punctuated with a white jut of rock like a shark's tooth. In Room (gelatin silver print: 28" x 28": 2001) a detail in the bright, curiously homelike chamber yields an extra touch of delight: the leaves in the water, captured in the blur of an endless, eddying whirl.
Subterranea is, literally, 'below the earth'. Sally Gall's fifteen prints capture the mystery and magnificence of what lingers and lurks just beneath the skin of rock, where light's illumination creates enigma as much as it reveals detail. The product of a distinct and well-executed vision, beautifully composed, Sally Gall: Subterranea will be at Catherine Edelman Gallery through July 12, 2003.
This exhibition has been produced in conjunction with the publication of Gall's book, Subterranea (Umbrage Editions: March 2003), which includes works included in this exhibition as well as further images. Signed copies of Subterranea are available at the gallery.
--Katherine Rook Lieber
Subterranea by Sally Gall and other books mentioned in www.artscope.net reviews may be purchased through this site's Amazon.com link.
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