Synonyms of the word “edge” are numerous—border, rim, boundary, perimeter, periphery among many more. The use of the word in Bob Tanner’s artist statement for his new show at Perspective is meaningful. Tanner titles the two series included in the exhibition “At Ocean’s Edge” and “At Winter’s Edge,” and both were made after the loss of his wife. The ocean work is thoughtful, quiet and gentle. One can almost walk with Tanner on the Pacific shore where the earlier images were made, feeling his emotional pain as he puts one foot in front of the other, not sure the world makes sense. More recently, Tanner made the second body of work on display—abstract images created on the floor of a parking garage near home. In this work, he records marks made in the normal life of the garage.
Tanner, who graduated from the Institute of Design at IIT, having studied with the likes of Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, has known what it means to see deeply and create unusual photographs. His sense of composition has long made his images objects of beauty—Tanner sees things within things that others might miss, the subtleties of color and form, creating a language of subtlety and elegance.
In “At Ocean’s Edge 6044,” the sweep of sand left by the waves is interrupted by a small stem with a crushed leaf and golden berry. The piece otherwise has the quality of an etching or charcoal drawing, but that realistic object brings into focus that these are photographs. Similarly, “At Ocean’s Edge 6076” has another berry as well as a series of rocks to disrupt the abstraction. These are things most people would walk over and never notice, but for Tanner they are the raison d’être for looking downward.
And then, there’s the “At Winter’s Edge” work. As in his previous “Traces” work, Tanner revisits the theme of the marks made by the daily movement of people and things. These are pure abstracts, appearing to be drawn, but instead, remnants of cleaning, salt and wear and tear on asphalt. “At Winter’s Edge 7610” appears to be a geode, and both “At Winter’s Edge 7648” and “At Winter’s Edge 7672” are beautiful, pure and desaturated abstracts.
The contrast between the seaside and a parking garage is minimal to Tanner’s expert eye. Both are there to be observed and captured, both assist him in sharing his own graceful visual poetry. This is a meditative show filled with one refined image after another. Take your time with each photograph, understand the nuance and above all, enjoy the simple beauty of this work.
“Bob Tanner: My Downward Gaze” is on view at Perspective, 1310 Chicago Avenue, Evanston through October 29.