His scenes take off from landscapes he's photographed on train trips between Boston and Philadelphia, plus Internet research. Then he hand-draws them with pen, acrylic paint, watercolor, and gouache. To depict billboards, he often custom silkscreens images directly onto his drawings. He tears out photos of cityscapes from vintage coffee-table books and paints them to look swamped by more than 100 feet of water (think of Steven Spielberg's 2001 A.I.), though note that this much flooding is well beyond the projections of climate scientists. In Lukas's world, bare dead trees list in swampy waters, concrete posts remain standing under now-vanished highway decks, semi-trailers tilt on overgrown highway embankments, and graffiti sprawls across walls like humanity's last anarchic yawp.
Bosworth and Tourlentes's New Topographics
Barbara Bosworth has built her career on close, attentive photos of the landscape — capturing the rippled surface of a river, studying a meadow, tracking down the largest tree of each species in the United States. But "Natural Histories" at the Peabody Essex Museum (East India Square, Salem, through May 27) collects 35 photos of her family from the past two decades — around Stow and other parts of Massachusetts, where she's long lived, as well as in Novelty, Ohio, where she grew up.
Bosworth's focus here is on quiet, normal moments: a girl holding a snail, the wedding rings on her elderly parents' hands, fireflies in a jar. It seems like there should be magic in the ephemeral events she records, like the spots of a solar eclipse projecting onto her father's cupped hands. But the compositions are often bland, the mood detached. She rarely shows faces or makes eye contact. It seems to be more about collecting specimens — bugs, snails, people. Which is the modus operandi of the large-format, just-the-facts, conceptually driven, emotionally deadpan '70s New Topographics photography that her work comes out of.
New Topographics is generally seen as a West Coast style, but a couple of the founding fathers — Nicholas Nixon and Frank Gohlke — spent much of their careers in Boston, and Joe Deal spent his last decade in Providence. It continues to be one of the most prominent styles in art photography — and especially here.
Somerville photographer and 2010 ICA Foster Prize finalist Stephen Tourlentes's show "Of Length and Measures" at Carroll and Sons (450 Harrison Ave, Boston, through May 19) also fits into this tradition. His photos show prisons glowing on the outskirts of towns like alien spacecraft. They're gorgeous, velvety black-and-white prints. But they're odd as political works, and their singular subject demands a political read. Tourlentes has talked about how prisons "sit on the periphery of a society's consciousness," about lights and surveillance, about the economics of prisons. The pictures might say something about how we push prisons to the edges of our communities, but the detachment of this sort of formal landscape photography (no people appear in the photos) is not conducive to social engagement.