Seattle Times review of “The Digital Eye”

Julie Blackmon. Powerade (from the Domestic Vacations series). 2005. Pigmented inkjet print. Collection of Martin Werner Dreyer. Courtesy of the artist and G. Gibson Gallery, Seattle.

Read all about the Henry exhibition in this Seattle Times review that reminds you that an image is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, but those thousand words might all be a lie.

Technology has driven the art and science of photography since the invention of the medium in the early 19th century. Digital photography is the most recent development, and in many ways the most perplexing and provocative. The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Electronic Age, drawn from public and private collections, presents the work of some of today’s most inventive artists who use digital photographic means.

Wendy McMurdo. Helen, Backstage, Merlin Theatre (The Glance). 1995. Pigmented inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist.

This excellent read by arts writer, Michael Upchurch, provides an overview of the meaning behind The Digital Eye, the tricks behind some of its most prestigious works, and insights from curator and Henry Director Sylvia Wolf (author of the book by the same title as the exhibition).

With digital photography, the line “between taking a photograph and making a photograph,” as Wolf puts it, continues to be blurred. Computer technology can make a self-evidently impossible image seem strangely plausible, as in Wendy McMurdo’s Helen, Backstage, Merlin Theatre (The Glance), where the title confirms that the “twin” girls we’re seeing are one and the same.

Julie Blackmon’s “Powerade” — from her “Domestic Vacations” series — has an undeniable feel of artifice. Yet it’s hard to pinpoint how the artifice is operating within the scene, which depicts the perfectly ordinary sight of a boy tossing a rubber ball into a garden. Everything about it is too crisp, too exact, as if the boy might be a cutout inserted digitally into a fantasy world of his own making. Blackmon keeps you guessing here as to how she pulled off the effect.

Todd Simeone. Gameboard. 2003. Pigmented inkjet print. Collection of Michael Van Horn and Patricia Wittmann. Courtesy of the artist and James Harris Gallery, Seattle.

Sean Higgins, Todd Simeone and John Haddock play with images deeply embedded in our memories, subtracting key elements from them while still ensuring that they’re identifiable. Simeone’s “Gameboard,” for instance, shows a Monopoly board that’s instantly recognizable as such, even with all its property names removed.

Check out this great preview of the show that “is both eye-baffling and mind-bending” before you come see it for yourself. Or, for those who have already experienced The Digital Eye, we suggest you still read this for some background info that might answer any remaining “how did they do that?” questions.

There are only two available tours left before the show’s closing on September 25, 2011 by exhibiting artist Paul Berger and curator Sylvia Wolf.

Gallery Talk: Paul Berger is a few weeks away on September 2nd, 7-8PM. In conjunction with the exhibition The Digital Eye, photographer and exhibiting artist Paul Berger will give an informal gallery talk on his work and the impact of photography and digital imaging on contemporary visual culture. This program is free for Henry members and students and $5 for the general public. Pre-registration is required.

Sylvia Wolf will conclude her series of curator-led tours of the show on September 8th, 7-8PM. Join our director for a unique look at digital innovations in photographic practice. Tickets will soon be available for this lecture. Check out our website for more details.

Paul Berger. Seattle Subtext: Front and Back Cover. 1982. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist.

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