Right off the bat, Colby Caldwell’s latest show is set up to take advantage of the Hemphill gallery space, and does so with an ease that is almost unnoticeable. The first room is filled with his series of images of people - take a longer look and you will notice that these are far removed from portraiture, these are what the artist has labeled “gestus pictures” (more about that in a moment). The second room is full of landscape inspired images utterly devoid of people, and the third room is shaped by a video installation and images that reflect time long ago as well as photographic ephemera.
It is these three approaches that spell out the themes for the current show; presence, absence and memory.
Let’s get back to the “gestus pictures”. Gestus is a Brechtian Theatrical term for the physical gesture which defines a character in production. This gestus is not a cliche, but the representation of a character. As I said earlier these are not portraits, but carefully staged images of characters. and what characters they are; a hunter, friends, and family - displaying personalities that let us read our own biases and dislikes into them. These are quietly successful and imaginative images.
These images show just that, absence. However take a second look and many of these images are speaking of an absence that is not the naturalistic ideal. The absence is that of man and these images quietly show his past presence, and his now departure from the area. This is most notably felt in “after nature (33)” (shown above).
For me, the two standouts of the show play with memory and photographic ephemera. (t)here, and (t)here (1) are my personal standouts of this show. These images feel connected to CC’s earlier work - which is no bad thing. (t)here documents the material of the work - film, while (t)here (1) distills the unknown quality of film, this image is an end of a film roll, an overshot. The final work in the Memory room is a 5 channel video installation, readers of this blog know of my trouble with video presentation in the gallery space, while the five monitors or “rounds” feature Bernard Welt’s writing (which I care for very much) it is still hard for me to give a review of the video portion of the show. Please do note that this is not due to any fault of the artist - it is due to this reviewer.
Colby Caldwell | Small Game is highly recommended, and is on display through February 24.