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‘Open Photography’ on display at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts

CoPA exhibition shows many photos, many perspectives

Dec. 8, 2015
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The Coalition of Photographic Arts (CoPA) formed in 2004 to foster appreciation and education on fine art photography in the Milwaukee area. Their newly opened exhibition at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts takes the theme “Open Photography,” and to that end, features works that span many current practices and perspectives.

Artist and Material Studios + Gallery co-owner Melissa Dorn Richards juried the show and culled 240 submissions down to the 45 presented. The resulting spectrum indeed has the character of a survey, designed to offer viewers a variety of work for every interest.

In the front gallery, mysterious abstractions take root in a grouping that includes Bernard Newman’s Trumpets, a swirl of green texture like a nebulous galaxy specked with tiny flecks of white. It is otherworldly and cosmic, and makes one uncertain about exactly what one is seeing. This visual ambiguity, aligned with its crystalline features, is compelling and it is one of the pieces nominated as a runner-up for Best-In-Show.

Also honored with this distinction is Robert Tolchin’s Refraction #505, where a black grid overlays a nude figure in soft focus, as though behind a screen. It gets even more interesting the closer you get, as some of the gridded squares appear like watery droplets, but are revealed to be distorted images of the figure.

The Best-In-Show award went to Tim Mulcahy’s Surveillance, a somber gray image of a Deconstructionist building that rises like a steel apartment building with angular disjunctions. Destabilized at the top, the upper reaches of the structure seem ready to tumble down in a dystopian, dreamlike state.

While these are the three that won cash prizes, others also stand out strongly as examples of thoughtful approaches to image making. Urban industrial spaces like factories and tunnels become reimagined as modernist visions for their stark geometries, creating beauty out of the banal. For others, the life of the street and human interest are the impetus, or the verdant colors of nature. Given this range, the one common thread connecting all is the practice of art through the eye of the photographer.

“The 9th Annual CoPA Juried Photography Exhibition” continues through Jan. 22 at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, 839 S. Fifth St.

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