Another excellent review! This is for the show at The University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor, ME. The show looks fantastic by the way and will be up through September 19, 2009. For more information on the show, click here.
Elegant Darkness: Photographs by Connie Imboden
“Black-and-white, when its full potential is realized, renders all other colors unnecessary,” the painter Wolf Kahn one wrote about Emily Nelligan’s charcoal drawings, The same can be said of the photographs of Connie Imboden. While the Baltimore-based artist has explored color in her recent years, the twenty pieces in Elegant Darkness, dating from 1987 to 2005, offer a rich palette, with tones ranging from silvery white to pitch black.
Imboden’s stature as a world-class photographer is based on her compelling images of bodies transformed by water. Over the years she has explored the intersection of physical form and liquid medium. In her photographs, torsos, limbs, and visages stretch and twist into new configurations that are often gorgeous and frequently disturbing.
In a number of pieces, we witness Ovid-like metamorphoses. In Untitled 6243, for example, a male figure appears to be turning into (or emerging from) driftwood. At times, the makeover seems cruel: the face in Untitled 9053 undergoes a torturous rearrangement by way of a metal contraption right out of an S&M accessory catalogue. In each case, it is the H20 that creates the illusion.
The nineteen silver gelatin prints and one archival inkjet print in the exhibition bring to mind diverse artists and aesthetics. Earlier pieces, such as Sainthood and Visceral Thoughts (both 1987), might be stills from a Jean Cocteau film, where disembodied heads surreally float in a watery landscape. Just as we read labia in the folds of Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers, so the viewer may connect the fleshy snail shape in Untitled 8067 to something sexual. The diving figure in Untitled 1721 recalls the paintings of Lorraine Shemesh, who shares Imboden’s fascination with the distortions that occur when a figure moves through water.
The exhibition was organized to mark the recent publication of Imboden’s Reflections: 25 Years of Photography (Insight Editons, 2009). A long-time professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Maine Media Workshop, the artist has earned this retrospective treatment through a commitment to investigating the exquisite mysteries of the human form.