Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Robert Bourdeau @Houk

JTF (just the facts): A total of 24 black and white photographs, framed in black and matted, and hung in the main gallery space. All of the works are vintage (or printed with a year or two) gelatin silver prints, many toned with gold, alternately available in editions of 15 or 30. Physical dimensions range between 8x12 and 11x14 (or reverse). The images were originally taken between 1981 and 2005. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Robert Bourdeau's recent photographs of decaying industrial architecture are in many ways a throwback to a time when superlative black and white craftsmanship was regarded as the pinnacle of photographic achievement. His images celebrate the tactile quality of surface texture with an almost fetish-like reverence, making stained steel and flaking concrete glow with burnished gold-toned glory.

Bourdeau's compositions crop out the sky, centering down on fragments of piping and industrial cement, where boilers, engines, furnaces, ladders, and railings criss-cross in layered abstract geometries. Residues drip down the sides of steel tubs, walls erode and crumble, swirls and imperfections decorating every inch of disused, dusty equipment. These are formal pictures, where shapes, angles and patterns have been arranged with care, their subtle tonalities enhanced by exacting printing. They have the echo of Bourdeau's friend and teacher, Minor White, the rotting hulks infused with an almost spiritual grace.

While we have all certainly seen these kinds of industrial subjects over and over again across the history of the medium, that doesn't take away from the fact that these are undeniably well made photographs. They're almost like old cabaret songs or jazz standards being sung once again; they're entirely familiar but still noteworthy when executed with such obvious technical expertise.

Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced at $8500 each.
Bourdeau's work has not yet reached the secondary markets with any regularity, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
Robert Bourdeau
Through February 18th

Edwynn Houk Gallery
745 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10151

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