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A World of Shadows

Art Review

Aug. 19, 2008
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Shadows. Abstract shapes. Spatial Relationships. These concepts, portrayed in intimate photographs, describe the work of John Heymann exhibited at the CharlesAllisMuseum with “At a Moment’s Notice: The Photographs of John Heymann” through Sept. 21.

Heymann, a photojournalist featured in The New York Times and TheBoston Globe, displays approximately 45 prints in black and white or color that use the construct of light playing against the manmade or natural world. In his prints these shadows suggest abstract sculptures or mysterious relationships between objects and physical space, which define Heymann’s compositions. The repetition of shadows seen through various types of light and the intricate patterns they form create an alternate reality in his pictures, asking the viewer to look deeper to find hidden meanings.

A trio of prints expresses these themes with exceptional skill. Heymann’s Corridor, RedRockPark, Sedona (2007) captures spider-like shadows in a corridor of rock canyon creeping down the steps to an unknown space. In his Shadow on Sidewalk, Porter Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2007) a cloaked figure wearing a fedora, completely in silhouette, walks between a labyrinth of ebony shadows as if stepping into contemporary film noir.And last, Bus Stop, Edinburgh, Scotland (2007) depicts the dark soles of bystanders’ shoes underneath the seat at a city bus stop, waiting for the light to carry them off to their destination.

Heymann’s photographs from Antelope Canyon, Ariz. in the 1990s also seduce the viewer into close-up visions of this canyon’s cracks and crevices, as if riding these waves of rock strata. But the exhibition would have been more striking after further editing, focusing on work completed after 2000 where Heymann perhaps finds the greatest balance between photojournalism and fine art. During this period he appears to uncover the most innovative and intriguing abstract pictures that suggest there are still captivating mysteries to discover when one searches for them. Here his unique relationships between light and shadow imprinted on paper, (whether caught in urban life, interior spaces, or the less inhabited natural environment), shroud the viewer in the peculiar silence of modern life.


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