San Francisco

Greg Macgregor

Lawson de Celle

Greg Macgregor photographs the synthetic structures and evidential markings left by man in the Western landscape. A large, broken down metal skeleton in the middle of an open plain looks like the decayed carcass of some paleolithic animal; a long metal building once perched on a cliff, now plunges, discarded and upended, into a water-filled gorge. However, not all of MacGregor’s pictures focus on discarded objects. He depicts strange phallic rock formations that seem extraterrestrial, and, in a handful of images, fabricates stars and constellations floating in dark voids. The majority of the pictures are direct, documentary, and not reflective of any particular formalist intent or unique visual arrangement. But they are provocative for the most basic reason—they are mundane forms that are stranger than fiction. These works are more subtle than the extreme surreal compositions he published in Deus Ex Machina. The photographer now seems to find in the landscape what he previously had to construct.

Unfortunately, these images are weakened by MacGregor’s decision to handtint. He sees tinting as a way of associating these pictures with the early postcard tradition of documentation of the bizarre. The tints run towards sepia and ochre, with accents of pink, blue and green. In contrast to Skoff, who blends her color, MacGregor deliberately leaves his rough and somewhat unintegrated with the forms.

The handcoloring overwhelms the subject matter; rather than setting up some sort of dialectical tension, it trivializes the content. The relationship to the postcard genre may be valid, but the conventional, 11 inch by 14 inch matted format certainly doesn’t reinforce this premise, and most viewers will not associate these images with souvenir depiction. MacGregor’s handcoloring strikes me as evidence of insecurity about his subject choices. Or perhaps it simply reaffirms the notion that photography without gimmick is often photography ignored.

Hal Fischer