William K. Daby, who has been photographing for some five decades, calls his new images at AS220's Main Gallery (115 Empire Street, Providence, through November 24) "photo paintings." Which seems to be defined as: Photoshopped up the wazoo. Usually this sort of excessive photo filtering and manipulation is considered a hallmark of poor taste. But a lot of avant-garde art of the past century and a half is based on the theory that if you pursue poor taste far enough you might, in effect, circumnavigate the whole thing and wind up with a masterpiece.
ON THE STREET Shechtman’s Chubb Rock and Kwame.
Which I bring up more to mull the possibilities than to describe what Daby has actually accomplished. Which ain't bad.
In Night Riders, Newport, RI, Daby turns people riding horses into black silhouettes galloping across a turquoise beach under a flaming red sunset and ultramarine blue sky. Columbia Waiting for Wind shows a yellow sailboat against a gold sky and floating on a green and blue sea.
Wave Watchers contains three silhouetted figures, two of them holding surfboards, standing on a rocky beach before blue and pink crashing waves. The amped-up color scheme brings to mind — intentionally, I assume — the pink-yellow-orange hues of posters for the 1966 surfing documentary The Endless Summer.
Daby's trippy, hyper, neon colors and inverted negative images can feel gimmicky and overprocessed. But in the best ones — the horses on the beach, the surfers — you can sense the potential here: a gonzo Photoshop psychedelia.
Also on view in AS220's Main Gallery are photos by Jason Shechtman. A photographer early in his career, you can sense him figuring out his own vision. He evokes the wry deadpan popular in contemporary photography in photos of a slide dumped on its side on a New Hampshire lawn or plastic chairs scattered across the lawn of a Brooklyn playground. Then he begins to dig into neighborhoods in portraits of rappers hanging out on an East Village, New York, street and people playing in the spray of an open hydrant as relief from Brooklyn's June heat. A girl sits in the spray; shirtless tattooed guys hang out; an SUV drives through the cascade; kids in their street clothes dash through the torrent; sunlight gloriously illuminates the spray.
Shechtman is still finding his voice, which is probably mainly a matter of putting in time. He's found compelling subjects, but seems hasty about getting the shot, perhaps not giving himself the time to walk around for the optimum angle, to wait for people's expressions to ripen. But in his respectful studies of particular neighborhoods you can see a path.
: Museum And Gallery
, AS220, Main Gallery