5811 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637
In a world full of bombastic imagery where colors have dominated, we have almost forgotten that a world of black and white imagery exists. It seems that B/W world is reduced only to Art history books or photocopies of B/W Printer (of my school that never seems to work). Nowadays, even people’s hair follow an artist’s color palette.
John Neff recent exhibition at The Renaissance Society of Art is an attempt to bring that bygone era of Black and White photography back in the mainstream. And I believe he nailed it.
The photographs seem to have a character of their own. They speak of being sentimental, nostalgic, sensual, personal and intimate. The entire setting of mounting the photographs on a gray wall and dim lighting makes you enter a personal space. It’s like John Neff is letting us into his private world. The subjects make a reference to landscapes, still life, portraits and abstracts. The one thing that ties them all together is that they are a documentary work of personal lives of his close friends and relatives. The camera used by him is crudely self-built and engineered to suit him. The result is a photograph so awesome that even the glitches are unnoticeable and have ephemeral quality. I guess this renders a mystic aura to his photographs.
One of the best part of the exhibition was that I met Doug Ischar who was going to give a talk next day. Conversation with him helped me understand more on the sentimental value the show had for Doug and John Neff.
Doug Ischar: Artist and educator. Since the early 1990s, Ischar has worked in sound, video and photography. His work has to single channel videos that address issues surrounding gay identity, desire and loss. Currently an associate professor of photography at UIC, he has exhibited at MCA, chicago; The Wexner Center for Arts, Columbus; Photographers Gallery, London; LACE Los Angeles and Museu de Arte Moderna, Sao Paulo. (you can spot him in the photographs of the show)