LA Times Review of "Mississippi": Blurred pieces, a sharp whole

August 1, 2015

Old River Road- Highway 1 Levee,  2015


The light leaks, sun flares, blurs and skewed chro­mat­ics in John Chiara’s pho­to­graphs go to show that sev­eral tech­ni­cal wrongs can make an ex­pres­sive right. One of seven artists in the Getty’s re­mark­able ex­hi­bi­tion Light, Paper, Pro­cess: Rein­vent­ing Pho­tog­ra­phy, Chiara re­de­fines con­ven­tional pic­ture-mak­ing means to serve evoca­tive, per­sonal ends.

Based in San Fran­cisco, he uses large cam­eras that he con­structs him­self, tap­ing sheets of color pho­to­graphic pa­per in­side to make unique, di­rect pos­i­tives. Translu­cent traces of the tape ap­pear along the edges of most of his pic­tures, and the chem­i­cals used in de­vel­op­ing streak and slur across the sur­faces. Many of the prints have ir­reg­u­lar, asym­met­ri­cal shapes.

At ROSEGALLERY, Chiara presents a se­ries of in­tro­spec­tive land­scapes made along the Mis­sis­sippi Delta over an 18month pe­riod in 2013-14. He shoots the sky, of­ten straight into the sun, in fla­grantly deskilled echoes of Stieglitz’s “Equiv­a­lents.” He frames a non­de­script thicket of leaf­less, auburn trees, the branches smudged against metal­lic blue. He iso­lates a flag­pole against vi­o­let sky, the ban­ner lit­tle but a faint ocher blur.

Chiara’s work amounts to a kind of po­etry of place, a pri­vate di­ary of res­o­nant im­pres­sions.

The im­ages tend to be self-con­sciously un­der­stated, but as a group they build some emo­tional mo­men­tum. His scrappy process, at once rev­er­ent of pho­tog­ra­phy’s es­sen­tial mys­ter­ies and de­fi­ant of its rules, is per­haps the work’s most ap­peal­ing as­pect of all.

Source: Adduced from Los Angeles Times by Leah Ollman

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