Anybody over age 21 has probably come to the sober realization that Time's Winged Chariot is not about to be slowed in its rush to oblivion. But then there's photography. Photography offers the happy illusion that time can indeed be nailed down bit by tiny bit, captured if not for eternity, then at least for the life of the photo print paper.
This illusion of photography's power to arrest fleeting moments of life is at the heart of Christine Gatti's ":18 Project." Gatti has created a kind of conceptual self-portrait of a year in her life through still photographs and video presentations of these same photographs. Made up of assembled photographs taken from August 2004 to July 2005 and videos using the same material, ":18 Project" is an impressive work, expansive in its conceptual grasp and savvy in its presentational finesse.
Gatti's method is nothing if not daunting: She photographed herself and a piece of her immediate environment every hour of the day and night for one year. Because of the prominence of the number 18 in her life (she was born on the 18th), Gatti chose to take these photos as close to the 18th minute of the hour as possible.
What we see in the gallery are 12 large, stately panels, each holding a month's worth of photos. All are arranged in neat rows in chronological order. (The occasional missed hours are represented by pale blue rectangles.) The surging patterns of the work -- the blazing white of fully illuminated sheets dominating the night shots at the top of the panels that progressively give way to more varied light and dark and color images -- are strictly determined by the internal rules of the photographic game. Like any dutiful conceptualist, Gatti didn't cheat (as far as I can see) and spice things up with aesthetic niceties. She lets the stillness and sense of inevitability of those hourly progressions tell the tale.
Three video monitors set opposite the panels effectively counter the stillness. On the monitors the hour-by-hour progress of Gatti's life is represented with rapid-fire sequences of the photographic images. (Each monitor covers one-third of the year.) Moments here are not so much "nailed down" as forced through some kind of frenetic photo flipbook.
The contrast of video time and pictorial time are played off one another to fascinating effect. In the panels, images are set in a visible progression, like a text. We can make comparisons, do back-checks. On the videos, images exist in fractional time, each image demanding attention for a split second before being pushed aside by the next. Retrieval operations are pointless in this onslaught: You just jump into the current of images and let it carry you.
Gatti is the recipient of CEPA Members' solo show for 2005. On view in CEPA's upstairs gallery is the 2006 CEPA Members' Exhibition, expertly curated by Nina Freudenheim. Freudenheim gave two Solo Exhibition Awards. Tricia Zigmund won for her haunting image of a slightly startled-looking woman sitting, apparitionlike, on bare bed springs in a grim room strewn with piles of soot and debris. The second winning entry, "I'm in the Wrong Film," a photograph by Hans Gindlesberger, shows another lone, slightly perplexed figure, this one a young man sitting forlornly on a child's slide amid a featureless environment.
The show contains a number of superb pieces. Among them are: Andrei Hand's light-fused double portraits; Sylvie Belanger's striking image of silhouettes silk-screened on an overlaid material that reveals the vague outlines of a black-and-white photo beneath; and Wayne Geist's Best in Show photo of a cemetery with a fireworks display.
Notable are the large number of inkjet prints among fine examples of standard photo processes like C-prints and silver gelatin prints (represented splendidly by Eric Jensen in pale, literally sparkling flower studies). Some take advantage of the transforming power of digital technology, like Andrew Hershey's big two-sided image of a bedroom; a multicolored view of a stream by Junko Hayashi; Lori Hepner's "Slit 01," a giclee print that takes advantage of a kind of digital impressionism that springs from low pixel count; and a wonderfully sardonic set of diagrams by Sue O'Donnell that chart such things as "Rules, Guilt and Mom."
The in-the-round "Cyclorama" by Michael Bosworth displays an impressive control of digitally manipulated images (moving water in this case) as he continues his investigation of 3-D effects. It's a strong piece in a strong exhibition.
WHAT: Christine Gatti's ":18 Project" and CEPA Gallery's Members' Exhibition
WHEN: Both through March 18
WHERE: CEPA Gallery, 617 Main St.