Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Memories of the Future: Ana Barrado/Rockets @Bell

JTF (just the facts): A total of 21 black and white photographs, generally framed in black and matted, and hung in the single room gallery space against blue and white walls. All of the prints are gelatin silver prints made between 1978 and 1996, and are either strictly vintage or printed within a few years of the negative date. Physical dimensions range from 12x10 to 22x18 (or reverse), and the prints have not been editioned. The exhibit was organized in conjunction with Paul M. Hertzmann Inc. (here). (Installation shots at right, via Deborah Bell.)

Comments/Context: Venturing into space is one of the most inherently aspirational of human pursuits; we look to the immense sky above and optimistically challenge ourselves to reach for the stars. Ana Barrado's images of sleek booster rockets, space capsules and astronaut gear from across the years are simultaneously dated and futuristic, giving us a glimpse of the technological dreams of our recent past and deepening our reverence for the power (or folly) of our own machine age wonders.

Most of Barrado's photographs capture the conical forms of rockets, either on display or on the launchpad. The white projectile forms are surprisingly sculptural; nose cones, tubular bodies and angular tail fins provide overlapping geometric interest, while black engines jut and slash from the undersides. Taken with infrared film, the rockets gleam with a faint fuzzy patina, enhancing the contrasts (particularly the blinding white) and darkening the wispy Florida skies. Space suits, moon rocks, solar system displays and other relics of space flight add to the science fiction mythology, becoming a family friendly form of self congratulatory tourism.

Barrado's landscapes full of mothballed missles have an unexpectedly surreal quality to them; objects built for speed and distance are firmly rooted to slabs of concrete and grassy lawns, the open skies above mocking their status as museum monuments. I think the best of the pictures in this show move beyond the technical specifics and become more visually abstract, transforming the forms of the rockets into symbols of that ambitious quality in us all, the one that sees the excitement in stretching beyond our limits.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced between $3500 and $5500, generally based on size. Barrado's work has not yet entered the secondary markets in any significant manner, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)
  • Feature: Photograph (here)
Memories of the Future: Ana Barrado/Rockets
Vintage Photographs 1980s-1990s
Through June 25th

Deborah Bell Photographs
511 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

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