Thursday, October 20, 2011

Elger Esser at Sonnabend Gallery (Revision)

Elger Esser’s exhibit, "Et nous avons des nuits plus belles que vos jours,” (translated as And we have some nights more beautiful than your days) is a subtle, yet intriguing collection of photographs and heliogravures.

Prints in color and grayscale showcase a variety of images taken in Giverny, France, at the Fondation Claude Monet gardens, the site where Monet undertook his famous water lily paintings. While Esser’s photographs appear as escapades in capturing dusk and dawn lighting, in truth all were shot at night. Playing with high contrasts and reflections, the images seem otherworldly and mystical. As the title of the show suggests, the beauty captured in these long exposure shots rivals the beauty of the gardens during the daylight. Many of the grayscale images mimic the appearance of early photography, while the ones in color work with ethereal colors of deep purples and blues and golden auras. In terms of subject matter, the grayscale prints adhere to traditional landscape shots; the color prints’ subject matter experiment with reflections and reflecting surfaces.

Also on display are a number of large sepia tone prints displaying grandiose architectural/landscape shots. Engulfing in their size, these nostalgia-tinged images somehow continue to pervade fairy tale innocence, despite their larger dimensions.

Overall the show is truly an ephemeral journey through beauty and light. Traveling through the unearthly Giverny gardens, completely devoid of life, and then through fanciful sepia-scapes elucidate worlds integrally dependent on dramatic lighting and the interaction between the earthly and the aquatic.

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