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Review: John Chiara and Sean McFarland/Swimming Pool Project Space

Albany Park, Photography Add comments
John Chiara

John Chiara


This two-person show is a conceptually rather than aesthetically driven conversation between two Bay-area photographers who use experimental methods to capture uncanny landscapes. John Chiara’s epic, faded Cibachrome prints of ocean and suburbs are taken with immense homemade cameras, limiting his options for subjects to places he can drive or hold the camera, creating off-kilter, alienating compositions. His prints themselves, developed in similarly unorthodox homemade tubes, illuminate the materiality of the images with unpredictable, washed-out colors and the marks and smears left by uneven developing chemicals. Where Chiara’s photos are delicate and ephemeral, Sean McFarland’s are all cold-edged and sublime. His process involves piecing together digital images (some his, some found) to create images of lightning storms and aerial shots of various topographies, which he then re-shoots as black-and-white Polaroids to produce a consistent fictional documentary. It’s a smart pairing, intellectually, given the concern of both artists with the deconstruction and extension of the photographic medium, but McFarland’s photographs are trickier; his process isn’t obvious or even suggested by the final images, which look like straightforward snapshots, leading to the question: must we know how an image is constructed in order to best appreciate it? (Monica Westin)

Through November 29 at Swimming Pool Project Space, 2858 W. Montrose.

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