Philip Dembinski, a photographer with a degree from Columbia College, is featured at LivingRoom Gallery in his first solo exhibition with selections from two photographic series, Nothing Just Happens and Along The Boulevards.
Dembinski’s Nothing Just Happens series consists of large-scale color photographs depicting singular figures in domestic interiors. This all female cast of characters exude a pathos akin to Edward Hopper’s paintings and etchings and select Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s photographs (such as Bret Booth, 21, Des Moines, Iowa and Andre Smith, 28, Baton Rouge, Louisiana). Although the subjects of the photographs may be gazing at a disturbance in an alley, or reaching for a cabinet in the kitchen, a kind of wistfulness saturates their gaze and actions, despite their languid poses.
Dembinski refers to them as “one frame narratives,” charging the scenes with a cinematic quality, which is enhanced by the eerie coloring of his photos, a result of his capturing images at dusk when natural light is on the wane and electric light appears all the more unnatural in contrast to it. This jarring juxtaposition of natural and artificial light gives the color in his pictures a digitally manipulated quality, but Dembinski’s post-production work consists solely of minor touch ups to balance tone.
Philip Dembinski. Back Allery Disturbance.
The photographs in his series Along The Boulevards depict the natural landscape of Daniel Burnham’s famed emerald ring, the interlocking series of boulevards connecting the major city parks. Grouped around the center of the city, they reach from Hyde Park, through Garfield Park, up to Logan Square, where they prematurely languished before reaching eastward to Lincoln Park and the Lake Shore. Dembinski’s photos, when considered as portraits of the places, structures and observable phenomena of the City Beautiful boulevard system, chronicle not just the historic passage of time that has occurred along this route, but also, on a smaller but more immediate scale, Dembinski’s own travels and experiences of the boulevards. Moist asphalt glistens in bright light, a poured concrete bridge bends out of the frame towards the unknown, and the impression of boot prints in spongy snow all document a scene which, although photographed along this historic route, are in no way contextualized by it.
The photographs from Nothing Just Happens, although less grounded in their Chicago-ness then Along The Boulevards, seem to retain more of a Chicago residue because of the easily recognizable two flat brownstones and overhead light pollution which structure each scene. Regardless of his photographs’ real or imagined geographic locale, both series indicate Dembinski is a photographer to watch, due in equal measure to his sensitivity as to his technical acumen.
Apropos of Dembinski’s community-based, Chicago-centric photos, LivingRoom Gallery, with its pressed tin ceiling and exposed brick walls, provide a charming storefront gallery space for seeing art. Housed within a realty company of the same name, LivingRoom Realty, business partners Abraham McClurg, a self-described flâneur and unassailable polymath, and Annie Coleman, a multi-instrumentalist and practiced square dance caller, specialize in finding sustainable, artist and musician friendly spaces for their clients with a focus on the West Town, Ukranian Village and Logan Square neighborhoods. With more art openings, film screenings and other such gatherings on their calendar for the future, they too are a space to watch.
--Thea Liberty Nichols