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Seen and Unseen at Catherine Edelman

by Liz Dyla

Work by Keith Carter

Work by Keith Carter

Keith Carter’s reputation precedes him, with over 100 shows, nationally and internationally his artwork is in the public and private collections of The National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, J. Paul Getty Museum and The Art Institute of Chicago. At first glance, the work seems traditional and contemplative in nature, the imagery is quiet, like a low hum; naturally lit and toned, the photos blur the edges between fantasy and reality. Aptly playing with scale and selective focus compositionally, Carter is a gentle guide as he leads us into this world he created for the viewer to revel in.

In his book Fireflies, a compilation of his portraiture of children (on sale at the gallery) he describes his work as a “world of truths and half truths, the inhabitants might be amiss or fallen from grace”, they “inhabit a peaceful kingdom where everything that falls deserves a chance to be restored.” Agreeably Carter’s work invokes strong feelings of restlessness. Discourse between the small, intimate, and whimsical, and the introspective and macabre make for a compelling cerebral trip to a different place and time. A place where nothing is as it seems, somber children engage the onlooker with pensive stares, and a highly symbolic narrative slowly unravels only with further study.

Heavily influenced by Paul Strand, Carter’s work is about the celebration of life’s imperfections. Other influences come from his own childhood growing up in Louisianna and Texas. Themes and scenes from these places resonate loudly throughout the span of his entire body of work. A young boy’s head turned inward toward the middle of the picture plane, where a large raven rests is depicted in Bay and Hawk (2005). The image is as unsettling as it is beautiful. Similarly intriguing is the piece Equestrienne (1997), a portrait of a young girl in black clothing against a minimalist background, focuses on the girl’s gaze.

Equestrienne by Keith Carter

Equestrienne by Keith Carter

Even before you enter the gallery you are met with three large-scale pieces on the walk down to the entrance. Serpentine (2009), Kneeling Woman (2009) and Upswept (2009) depict hunched women; their long hair cascading down from their heads in precise arrangement, represents the direction of Carter’s newest work. The rest of the show feels fairly seamless as you move through the space and is minimalist in its presentation. This greatly complements Carter’s work conceptually. It’s worth the trip down to Catherine Edelman Gallery on a Saturday or Sunday when you can explore the other galleries in the building. This retrospective of Keith Carter’s photographs spans approximately 20 years, and it has been 10 years since he’s shown at this gallery in particular. For more information on Keith’s work you can visit his website where you can find information about upcoming lectures and workshops.
Catherine Edelman Gallery is known for stirring works of photography from the national and internationally renowned artists. Located in the heart of the River North gallery district at 300 W. Superior St. Chicago, IL 60654, the show runs from March 12 – May 1, 2010. (http://cyclopsblog.com/)