Sunday, December 07, 2008

An Expanding Question

Over the years the Silverlens Foundation and Gallery has built an enviable reputation with its photographic exhibitions, with one of its distinguishing features being the gallery space itself. Adjusting the traditional white cube concept of gallery spaces, a dynamic space was designed to fit within the irregular building that Silverlens calls home. It is a space which successfully lends itself to dramatic presentations often employed to the advantage of the exhibited work.

A couple of months ago The Silverlens Foundation expanded its operations from photographic acquisition and exhibition to incorporate contemporary painting, drawing and sculpture. Acquiring the building next door two new exhibition spaces were created. The two new spaces, SLab and 20SQUARE, are connected to the main gallery by an open air walkway over the compound car park. The SLab gallery abandons the white walls and with its black walls and ceiling makes for an intimate Aladdin’s Cave that belies its 120 square meters. The 20SQUARE gallery is small, very small, walk in wardrobes are known to be bigger.

Currently on show at these spaces are; in the main gallery “The 2008 Grantees Exhibition”, in the SLab gallery “Bedtime Stories” and in the 20SQUARE gallery “New Collages” by Gary-Ross Pastrana.

The Grantees exhibition features the work of Conrado Velasco with “Pixel Towers”, Lena Cobangbang with her“Overland series” and Gina Osterloh’s “Shooting Blanks”. All these photographs document other works made by the artists and as such question the relevance of the genre. For this exhibition is all about photography as reportage; PR stills from past events.

Across the bridge is Bea Valdes’ “Bedtime Stories”, a selection of cuddly and not so cuddly, uniquely embroidered, soft toys. From the Bambi inspired ‘After the Fawn’ to the esoteric gender renderings of the two ‘Ever Afters’ and via ‘The Tower’ it is a burrow into “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.

Growing out of a dissatisfaction with an art school project is Pastrana’s “New Collages”in the 20SQUARE gallery. A series of collaged from contemporary media 6x4 index cards presented in grid formats ranging from 16 cards to 36 cards. Individual cards are often interesting abstracts but the lack of continuity in their presentation recalls their inspiration.

Viewing the 2008 Grantees exhibition with the latest expansion in mind the question of photographic validity as an art form comes to the fore. Is photography destined to remain the poor relation in the visual arts relegated to documenting others achievements?

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