At first glance, the photography of Brian Taylor and Stanley Smith posted on either side of the University Art Gallery may appear to be vastly different. However, with a closer look, a definite harmony appears; the art becomes a cohesive collection and has a common purpose.
Cal Poly’a University Art Gallery introduced a new exhibit Friday evening entitled Polarities and Intersections, in which Taylor and Smith’s photography is displayed. Prior to the opening both artists, who had only met one week ago, spoke to a large group in the business rotunda detailing the start of their careers and providing a glimpse of their work.
Taylor, an award-winning photographer since the age of 18 and a professor of art and design in the photography program at San Jose State University, is known for his study of alternative photographic processes. Among his body of work, Taylor has utilized 19th century printing techniques and created handmade books, which are featured in the exhibit.
“I am drawn to making handmade books that are fully opened so that I can tell a story by showing you two, and sometimes even more than two, photographs at the same time.” Taylor said, ” What I like about this format is an open book allows me to juxtapose one image against another image, even though the photographs might have been taken 3000 miles apart.”
Derived from a love of texture and and inspired by poetic moments in time, Taylor’s art is completely handmade. The photographs, torn around the edges as though they were ripped from a book, have underlying pages that add mystery to the piece; the viewer only gets the sense that something lies beneath the surface, because ethey can’t be seen.
Paper boats, a rollercoaster and a tree house are among the many subjects of Taylor’s nature-inspired photography shown in subdued colors like white, gray, light brown, and black against white backsplashes.
Smith, a photographer all his life and currently head of Imaging Services at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, originally was trained as a geologist, but his interest in subverting reality with a camera led him to pursue photography.
A major difference between the two artists is that Smith likes to use a digital camera to create large-scale, colorful images that appear abstract from a distance, one can see that he collected various, small images and digitally reconstructed them to create one photograph.
“My photography is built,” Smith said. I build these images. It’s a very different way of working than people think of when they think of photography or photographers. Photographers usually take a picture. I don’t take pictures, I make them. I do take them, but only to gather the raw materials to make one of these final images.”
In Smith’s piece “Smokes,” what looks like hundreds of tiny photos of cigarette cartons have been compiled to create a colorful work of art. In “Groceries,” various grocery shelves were photographed and manipulated to create a large, abstract image showing consumerism at its highest.
The exhibit name, Polarities and Intersections, generated by curator Eric Johnson, represents the extreme differences in the artists’ work, and the points in which both meet to reveal commonalities.
“There are certain places where Stanley’s work and mine are similar. One example, Little Pink Houses has something in common with Stanley’s work which is all about little pictures shown together. Where we come together is the social commentary, sort of commenting on life, crowded life, the fast pace of life. Then we are polar opposites. Where we are different is that he is 21st century and I’m 19th century,” said Taylor.
Mary LaPort, professor of graphic design in the art and design department at Cal Poly, is a frequent visitor of the gallery and enjoyed viewing their work for the first time.
“I think one of the commonalities, even though they are extremely different, is the narrative content,” said LaPort. Another interesting thing, this commonality, is they are both working with combining images, but the way they do it is very different.”
The exhibit will run in the art gallery located in Dexter building through Oct. 31.