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Fort Wayne Museum of Art: Illuminated interiors and landscapes
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
In art, like most human endeavors, the focus is many times placed on the largest, flashiest examples, gaining headlines and earning generous purchase prices. The works of Jeff Koons, Andreas Gursky, and in a way, even some of the Renaissance masters like Michaelangelo. Many times the art world will teeter back and forth, remembering to give credit where it is due to the less gilt, more subdued work which is lived with more than succinctly experienced, and which can sometimes have the much more profound response in a viewer. The astute artists capable of creating these pale works of art provide a series of unexpected pleasures, found many times in happenstance or through very concerted study.
Unlike the large scale, public works which beg for tourist photos and gaudy collectors, these works find life-long loves. Currently on view at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, "Ida Lorentzen: Interior Light and Space" and, "The Quiet Light: Photography by Dayne Bonta" are both perfect examples of this general concept. Bonta and Lorentzen's style of providing the space to trap the viewer, instead of actively reeling them in, only doubles the familiarity the viewer feels, and primes them for the creation of a strong rapport.
Dayne Bonta's illustrations of the dramatic capacity for lighting, even when interacting with the common natural environments, are curiously breathtaking. This artist makes a point to say that his work is a photograph merely because he uses a camera to produce it - his intention is, to the point as the exhibition essay states, "to depict color and light". A friend and mentee of Paul Caponigro, a member of the pantheon of early photographers, Bonta's work was revealed as being a highly emotional and near spiritual process and product, capable of evoking a great deal in the viewer.
Bonta captures images which seem to be purposeless and naively formalistic, and transform before the viewers eyes, into small trophies of our everyday. Clearly influenced heavily by Ansel Adams' spirit, Bonta, 84, does not shy away from those student like studies of bushes, trees in fog, and intense close ups of flora. By pushing past the conventions of these images, the work almost takes on a spiritual, dispensational authority to revel in the fine details of silver gelatin prints of whatever. Bonta's work exceeds in explaining the power of the photographer and the darkroom, over the camera or the subject matter. This physical grappling with light is the strength in Bonta's oeuvre.
Even in some of the digital work, Bonta's fight for control and then freedom of the light are clearly highlighted. Pieces like "Beside the Roadside", "Water Locust Trees," "Viriditas #1," and "Pods" highlight a more defined subject, while images like "Quad" and especially "University of the South" perfectly set the tone for the feeling of a space. Like that nagging feeling that you are being watched in an old basement, "University of the South" produces physical cues of the space being depicted therein. The images crisp contours, its velvet textures, and its gentle scales produce a masterpiece.
And while Dayne Bonta's training led to painterly photography, Ida Lorentzen, a Norwegian-American painter currently living in Oslo, Norway, takes on light in a decidedly traditional sense through gentle interiors in oil and pastel. By finding these intimately spare spaces, and highlighting their interactions with the light flowing through them. Lorentzen's visual vocabulary is akin to the Vermeer, Hopper, Vuillard, and Uta Barth, a German photographer known for abstracting her images into minimal, pristine conditions. The result of Ida's incredibly successful attempts to produce these quiet spaces is an exhibition of oils on canvas and pastes on paper of predominantly empty residential spaces, almost glowing with light, like the flickering images of early cartoons as the frames would change. Truly, many of Lorentzen's images feel like there are about to be inhabited, or that the viewer can somehow interact with the images beyond the conceptual.
Ida Lorentzen's "Smudges," a large oil painting on canvas, depicting a painter's studio, impeccably clean, and empty lest for a single stool placed close in front of a small painting, hung on the wall, with a series of what would seem to be abstract brush strokes across the plane. This idle space is light from a very large window which is partially in view. "Smudges" would seem to be a critique of abstraction, sort of in a more high brow way of saying "my kid could do that," yet there is something about the orientation of the canvas and stool which make the image seem much more reflective and respectful. The image is almost indicating that the eponymous smudges are worth the strong consideration of close, concerted, studying. Not only is the image immaculately produced, effectively producing a feeling of looking out the window and getting a little burn from the sunlight, but also producing a psychologically compelling landscape/still life which makes the viewer consider what is one of modern and contemporary arts' most poignant questions.
In other pastel pieces like "Hidden Secrets IV," and "White Door," Lorentzen does something similar but on a much smaller scale, seemingly focusing more on formal elements in these smaller works on paper pieces. "Hidden Secrets IV" still entices the viewer if only formally, as Lorentzen flexes her abilities by producing a lit reflective off of a stained wood floor through pastel, an incredibly unforgiving media, especially when using such light and dark color combinations. However in another simultaneously formal and conceptual beauty, "Its OK," is at first an incredibly unassuming image of chair, half tipped against the wall in a corner of a nondescript room. The view can then see the two rays of light which Lorentzen effortlessly floats through the core of the image, and through the complex structure of the chair to then reflect onto the wall. All this while the chair becomes anthropomorphized through the pieces title, sending the viewer into another set of untended lines of questions.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art effectively provides the perfect "rest space" over this hot summer by pairing both Dayne Bonta and Ida Lorentzen's work, allowing them to, almost in a whisper, reflect their light back and forth upon each other and entice the viewer who can rest enough to enjoy the beauty at their fingertips.
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
"Ida Lorentzen: Interior Light and Space"
"The Quiet Light: Photography by Dayne Bonta"
June 30-August 5th