Volume XIX, Number 4100
Tuesday, May 04th, 2004
Famously called "a single work of art" by its designers, Olmsted and Vaux, Central Park has inspired artists great and small, from weekend watercolorists to the internationally-known conceptual artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. In keeping with this tradition, the Arsenal Gallery is exhibiting the work of two artists whose collaborative work strives to capture Central Park’s beauty and mystery. The exhibit, entitled "Central Park: Two Views," pairs pinhole photographs by Monica Götz with paintings and drawings by G. Scott MacLeod. Götz’s photographs, which exploit the rudimentary light effects of pinhole photography, are evocative black and white images of Central Park’s bridges and rambles. Working directly from Götz’s photographs, MacLeod’s paintings and drawings re-interpret each image in paint. Taken together, the photographs and paintings provide "two views" of locations throughout Central Park, creating visual narratives that seem to come from another time and place.
"Central Park: Two Views" is a first-time collaboration for Götz and MacLeod, who grew up together in a small town outside Montreal. Although they’ve long resided in different cities— Götz lives in New York City, while MacLeod lives in Montreal—they’ve kept in touch over the years, e-mailing one another samples of their artwork. After seeing Götz’s pinhole photographs of Central Park, MacLeod suggested a collaboration.
"I fell in love with the subtleties and mystery of her photographs and was inspired to paint from them," said MacLeod. "I felt it was mature work and was confident I would produce good work from her compositions."
Central Park has been one of Götz’s favorite subjects since she began experimenting with pinhole photography in 2001. In her photographs of Central Park, Götz uses the unique characteristics of pinhole photography—haloes of light, distortion of angles, and a deep depth of field—to create spooky, atmospheric pictures that disrupt the viewer’s sense of history. Although her photographs are new and contain modern imagery—such as the Midtown skyline—they look as if they were taken at the turn of the century, before Central Park was complete. This disorienting effect was part of Götz’s intent.
"I wanted to try to evoke a history of the park that doesn’t actually exist. I tried to do this by focussing on its historic elements and implying a long timeline by using an old-fashioned method of photography," said Götz.
In recreating her photographs, MacLeod emphasized the formal structure of the scenes. His energetic stroke and use of color contrast with the ghostly atmosphere of Götz’s photographs.
"I chose photos that worked compositionally for me as a painter, but after the first ten paintings I had to leave the oil paint behind and work in black in white. So I experimented with water-soluble graphite pencils on mylar, which enabled me to blur and eliminate detail with the hope of achieving more of an ethereal image."
MacLeod worked from photocopies of the original photographs, sometimes making several generations of copies in order to break down the details of the photograph to arrive at a simplified image suitable to his style.
Both Götz and MacLeod find Central Park a place of special inspiration. MacLeod makes it a point to visit his favorite Central Park spots—Belvedere Castle, the Bow Bridge, the Boat House—on each trip to New York City. MacLeod also noted that Central Park was New York City’s most democratic space, providing people of all economic backgrounds with a free "open-air museum" and a "green paradise." Götz lives near the park and visits everyday. A fan of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s "The Gates", she is looking forward to taking pinhole photographs of the installation.
"When everything’s up and moving, there will be some beautiful, ghostly movement to photograph," Götz said, "and with the leaves off the trees and that bright orange color…it’s going to be very dramatic."
In this description, Götz could have been describing the enlivening contrasts between her work and MacLeod’s. Just as The Gates will allow us to see Central Park anew, Götz and MacLeod’s work re-awakens viewers to the hint of mystery that makes Central Park an enchanting park and an enduring work of art. "Central Park: Two Views" will be on display through June 10, 2004.
Written by Hannah Gersen
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"Words, like eyeglasses, obscure everything
they do not make clear."