Horse whispers - Gerald Incandela's equine 'photodrawings' celebrate species through darkroom manipulation
'EQUINE EXPRESSIONS: NEW PHOTODRAWINGS,' GERALD INCANDELA
By Josef Woodard, SANTA BARBARA
October 12, 2007
Horse art tends to be its own niche, populated by horse lovers primarily smitten with the subject, rather than the creative energies fueling the art. Gerald Incandela's equine "photodrawings," showing at Edward Cella Art + Architecture, might seem to come from the opposite, conceptualist side of the fine-art spectrum. But horse lore is alive and well, along with the instincts of an artist pushing into new expressive frontiers.
While horses are identifiable in the show "Equine Expressions: New Photodrawings," the details and realities are carefully blurred, to expressive ends. In his first West Coast show, Incandela uses a combination of photography and dark-room manipulations that result in smears and distortions. It amounts to a strange and beguiling synthesis of representational data and drawing-like gestures, sometimes evoking the gestural energies of abstract expressionism, but with recognizable horse elements.
Intrigue and energy are generated in the tension between facsimile and abstraction, fact and fiction. And while we're led into the visual transformations of his process, the mind's eye keeps leading us back to the horses, in terms of celebration of the species and reflections on the nature of animal locomotion. In other words, Incandela's work provides more food for thought and reflection than first impressions seem to suggest.
Sometimes, the art's built-in paradoxes lead us to unexpected responses. "Rearing Stallion," for instance, should be a viscerally potent image, but given the darkroom reinvention, it looks almost stately and sculptural instead of muscularly agitated.
Although this is clearly a conceptually organized series, the artist's "Equine Expressions" images convey distinctive strategies. "Step in the Shadow" is the sparest of the works, focusing on a horse's legs and its shadow, bathed in white space. But "In the Grove" is the opposite, a dense forest-like gathering of legs, the busy effect of which is compounded by brush stroke-like slashes atop the photographic data.
Perhaps the best in show, for many reasons, is "Homage to Muybridge." With its fluid sense of motion and post-cubist buildup of simultaneous perspectives, the image nods to modernism and to Eadweard Muybridge's famous early motion studies. Muybridge loved horses and human perception, and his pre-cinema photographic experiments attempted to illustrate that horses in mid-gallop at some point have all legs off the ground.
Muybridge's locomotion studies were more than experimental studies, venturing into the realm of art and, by association, into the mysteries of existence.
Incandela's "Homage to Muybridge" seems an apt gesture, in that this artist, too, seems both antiquated and contemporary in his exploratory use of his medium, while keeping horses in the spotlight.
"Equine Expressions" makes a good impression, partly because, in art terms, it walks a line between the archaic and slightly anarchic. The end effect is seductive for reasons we don't quite understand, whether we happen to be fans of the equestrian world or darkroom