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‘Strange Beauty’ is not to be missed

Strange Beauty, World #7, 2005

Around about this time every year the major museums in town begin to wind down their larger exhibitions in preparation for a mid-season replacement or an even bigger banner summer show. One such exhibition that is soon departing is Strange Beauty at the Museum of Photographic Arts. It will be coming down Feb. 3 so you only have this weekend to check it out. And I encourage you to!

Strange Beauty brings together three bodies of work by the Dutch image maker Ruud van Empel. I have been aware of this artist’s vivid work for several years. I am a fan of color, so the lush photographs that make up the title series have always caught my eye. The photographs of a hyper-bright Eden-like environment incorporate children, often black children with stoic, large-eyed gazes. The nicely laid out exhibition incorporates a set of videos in which van Empel discusses his work so I was surprised to learn that all his work is assembled in Photoshop. Not just a few adjustments, but each and every image is assembled in pieces like a jigsaw puzzle.

This technique of image manipulation becomes clear when you are face to face with the large prints. They are impressive. So too are the images in van Empel’s other two sets of work, both earlier work and more subtle. A particularly charming set of manipulated photographs involves a number of small keepsakes belonging to his mother assembled in a simple tableaux.

Strange Beauty, Souvenir #2, 2008

I had hoped to cover van Empel in more detail, including an interview, but the crush of holiday events prevented this from happening. If it had of gone forward my first question for the artist would have been a personal one: “Are you gay?”

It doesn’t really matter one way or the other because the images are great regardless. Yet the work demonstrates such a bright, camp sensibility that it makes me wonder.

You should check the images out for yourself before this Strange Beauty disappears!



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Posted by on Jan 31, 2013. Filed under The Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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