New York

John Batho

Zabriskie Gallery

In John Batho’s current color work, the most permanent color system there is (the Fresson four-color carbon process) is used to immortalize some of the most forgettable images I’ve seen. Batho’s series was made at an amusement park, mostly of the rides as they careened and whirled past the camera. The result is a great many photographs of smeary swipes of color. In some, a single, static, recognizable shape, such as the arrow painted on the side of the merry-go-round, emerges from the visual blah-blah. The Fresson process gives the pictures a graininess that looks almost pointillistic up close and that mutes the Day-Glo vulgarity of Batho’s subjects. In effect, a pretentious technique is being used in these pictures to make a cliched subject arty.

A few shots Batho made without all the motion-blur—a mass of painted rubber balls, and a dart board full of balloons—betray the speciousness of these photographs. Behind the obfuscating approach lies the heart of a true calendar artist.

Colin L. Westerbeck, Jr.