David Moog in The Buffalo News
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Every museum contains a few tricky, out-of-the way spaces that serve some essential architectural purpose but are seemingly less friendly to art.
These spaces, such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s subterranean link to Clifton Hall or the skinny corridor in the Burchfield Penney Art Center that runs between its new media and historic galleries, can either be constant annoyances or canvases for creative solutions.
At the Burchfield, curators have wisely used that little hallway as a pint-sized exhibition space for shows designed to whet viewers’ appetites, introduce them to a new artist or connect the themes of one show to the next.
That gallery is fulfilling all those functions with a succinct collection of black-and-white photographs by David Moog.
The north wall features a series of beautifully composed, almost austere landscapes showing rock configurations both natural and man-made. Lining the south wall is another series much harder to discern, depicting what might be hairline cracks in those same rocks shot with a macro lens, telescopic views of distant moons or cells caught in the act of mid-division under a microscope.
In his introductory text, Moog sets up the exhibition’s tone and mood nicely, comparing the chosen sequence of photographs as a haiku whose individual parts must be strong enough to work on their own.
“As in haiku, two non-analogous images may be brought together to form a desired sense independent of the meaning of the individual images,” he writes. “Each picture in a sequence must stand on its own, not requiring another image to develop its own meaning, but offering its metaphorical sense to the pictures to the left and to the right. The first and last pictures of a sequence must be hard workers.”
It’s worth taking Moog’s suggestion to treat each wall of the corridor as a poem. As a mental exercise after taking in Philip Stearns’ extraordinary installation “A Chandelier for One of Many Possible Ends” and before delving into the Burchfield’s expansive Alexander O. Levy exhibition, it calms the mind and clears the palate.
And because of its brief and smart introduction, it’s also an easily digestible meditation on what a photograph really is: Not a mere snapshot of a moment in time, but the culmination of an artistic process, an inner exploration, even an entire life leading up to the click of the shutter.
As curator Scott Propeack has said, there’s an undeniably Zen sense about Moog’s work, especially his rocky landscapes. Each of them is expertly composed and even more expertly exposed, an unsurprising technical achievement given his direct artistic links to Minor White and Ansel Adams before him.
Moog’s new series is perhaps more compelling because it is so difficult to pin down what precisely it depicts, providing just enough visual information to kick-start the viewer’s imagination without giving away the answer to the test.
The task for the museumgoer is to slow down enough, to look long enough, for the work to have an effect.
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