New York

Gerald Incandela

Charles Cowles Gallery

Gerald Incandela works in the kind of photographic idiom that won’t remain within “normative” conditions, but always pushes toward art. Or toward painting, because the changes crafted through superimposed negatives, cubistic layered planes, textural flourishes, and the strokes of undeveloped fixative masking the edges of these unique prints all move toward its illusionary realm. Yet the photograph is Incandela’s origin and end point, as his artifices both extend and critically return us to the camera eye. His images chip away at monocular vision, stressing the falsity of perspective before seeing in space, and showing the irony of the purist vision, reflected in the hypostasis of the eye, before an experience including wit, memory, and comparison. For if the camera can grasp what the eye cannot—all the dizzying multiplicity of the world’s detail—it can’t capture the human latitude of impressions. So Incandela succeeds in making both conceptual statements and complicated images. Whichever you like depends on your own persuasion; the important thing is that he does both very well.

These photographs were made by the now-familiar method in which multiple negatives representing different views are projected through an enlarger, then arranged in varied shapes and selectively brushed with developer. Different degrees of light thus materialize the imagery, while the fixative covering the undeveloped regions produces sections of blinding white. And these artifices seem, paradoxically, to develop what was already there, suggesting by shape, pattern, or geometrical arrangement the kinds of structural metaphors that the mind “sees” in certain visions of a motif, but which the camera’s factual tenacity can’t approach. Intimations of pattern, analogies of form, allusions to ways of seeing (such as works of art) can be made through these rearrangements passing from eye through mind to hand.

Thus four rectangular cuts of a stairway are shaped in an arched configuration, turning a curved, stepped descent into a churning tunnel of space. In horizontal views of landscapes, lanes, and varied historical sites Incandela plays with immensity, suggesting the panoramas that early photographers employed to evoke the visually vast. And these images, in their complexity, might perhaps be the best in the show. In one, Incandela has shot a landscape maze, shaping its rigid patterns into furtherangulated forms. Since the image is centered within the paper’s space, the white seems to extend to infinity, acting where sky might meet and amplify the horizon and rendering the foreground location ambiguous. And these rearrangements seem to realize an impression of a paradoxical cast, making an endless island of floating space emerge from the contained infinities of geometry.

Kate Linker