A tale of two exhibits

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The two brilliant photography exhibits at the Rockaway Artists Alliance are split between sTudio 6 and sTudio 7 and demonstrate RAA’s continuing evolution and commitment to the very best art.

sTudio 7 is presenting “Unbroken,” in partnership with the National Park Service/Gateway National Recreation Area and PhotoVoice, an organization founded by Anna Blackman and Tiffany Fairey in 1998 when they were both students in London. In PhotoVoice women and children, mostly in developing countries and communities, are given cameras and sent forth to document their world. “[The photos] tell a story, which is good,” said RAA’s director Susan Hartenstein. “The people have nothing, and they’re filled with so much hope.”

The first series of photos, “Shooting Kabul,” was taken by Afghan girls ages 10 to 14 and are amazing in their sense of composition, esthetics and narrative power.

One photo shows a boy selling nuts on the street — 37,000 children work and beg on the streets of Kabul, and 7,000 of them are girls. Another photo shows a machine gun, the bane of Afghanistan’s recent history, drawn on a wall among ruins of war. In another work, a woman in a flower-blue burqa boards a run down bus. There’s also a photo of elderly, turbaned men on what seems to be a foggy hilltop where a battle was fought with the unlamented Taliban.

The most striking photograph shows a group of boys who make flowers to sell on the street. They sit beneath kaleidoscopically beautiful works in pinks and reds and blues made of paper flowers.

“Street Vision” documents the lives of Vietnamese children who work in Ho Chi Minh City. The photos might show squalor and poverty but the essential innocence of the children come through. In one shot by Vo Cong Thang, a little boy poses like a crane on what looks like a rainwashed basketball court. In another photo by Vo Huy Tan a little girl sucks her thumb as she waits for her mother on a filthy street. In another, a boy sleeps the deep, oblivious sleep of childhood in the grass.

In “A Usual Scene,” by Chua Quang Ha, 17, another little girl sleeps on a bench beneath what looks like a billboard for Manchester United. The eye is drawn immediately to the sweet little pink and white sandals lying on the ground beside her.

“The Rose Class” is a series of mostly black and white photos recording the little known lives of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. These people were ethnically cleansed from their country by the Bhutanese government starting in 1992, and now number about 98,000.

Aite Maya, 18, photographs her blind uncle, a child playing on a swing, and her 97-year-old neighbor smoking on a stool. In another photograph by Bishnu Maya, rows of young people stand dressed in immaculate white and plaid shirts in front of their school at the Beladagi II Extension refugee camp.

“Thousands of teardrops carried us to Nepal,” writes Nar Bdr, 18, who took a photo of her brother holding a map of Bhutan. In another photo by Bishnu Maya, a group of children play happily with a tiny doll. According to the blurb beside the picture, they're happy because they were born in the camp, and never knew life in what seems to be the idyllic Bhutan.

“Unbroken” runs through June 29.

sTudio 6’s exhibit “Through the Lens” shows off the works of RAA members. The black and white prints, color photos, C-prints, R-prints and silver gelatin prints are personal, even a bit quirky, but deeply pleasing, and often breathtakingly lovely.

In the narrow corridor are works by M. Elliott Killian, including “Swan,” where the white bird floats serenely in a stream. Tom Graves’ “Green Market” shows a crowd of brilliant magenta radishes. In his “Rockaway Beach Autumn” a rickety fence slants down to the shore.

In Denis Macrae’s “James and Pablo,” the artist’s friend stands by a huge, semi-cubist painting of a young Picasso. Macrae’s “Arab Street Scene” shows a bunch of men congregating on marble steps in a Moroccan city. He took the picture, he said, “because everybody is doing something different.”

Holly Gordon, who doesn’t just photograph butterflies, and has also participated in PhotoVoice, has “Autumn Palette,” “Sedona Red Reflections #7,” “Shells #3,” “Moody Blues and Gold” and “Apres Monet.”

“Sedona Red” is a stunning, intensely colored photo of red, red mountains and green trees reflected in a lake of utter stillness. In “Apres Monet” autumn leaves float like the great painter’s water lilies.

Joseph Rothenberg’s black and white photos show his interest in contrasts and shapes. “Main [sic] Images II” was taken on a island off the coast of Maine. Two oars rest on a canoe’s bench. A rope is coiled neatly beneath it, in shadow.

“I posed it a very little bit,” Rothenberg admitted.

His other photos include an unusual view of the Sydney Opera House, a house in Taos in hard shadow and sunlight, and wands of gossamer New Zealand toi toi grass against clouds and sky.

Christian LeGars represents with “Autumn at Fort Tilden” as well as “Fog at Ft. Tilden I, II and III,” all of which are Impressionistic views of the fort.

Suzanne Riggs’ “Windowsill,” “Ya-Ya Sitting” and “Steeples Over Skopelos Bay” were taken in Greece. The first is a beautiful shot of succulent plants in five coffee cans, four painted bright red, arranged on a deep, light blue windowsill. In “Ya-Ya Sitting” a grandmotherly (Ya-Ya means grandma in Greece) baker has come out of her shop to take a breather. We can see that she’s not a widow, as she’s not dressed in black.

According to Riggs her pastries were set in a deep windowsill like the treats “in Hansel and Gretel.”

“Steeples” is a view of a little church, probably a family shrine, on a hillside above a bay.

Bryan Bernath’s “Times Square” and “Old Lady — Harlem River” contrast florid, happily vulgar Times Square with a shot of an exhausted old woman selling her stuff out of van.

Roger Carreau’s “Freeport Fall,” “Winter Covers Spring” and “Black on Yellow “are evocative and beautiful nature scenes, and David Symmonds’ “Intermingling & Transcendence of Time” is a big montage of detritus on a nearby beach, including dead horseshoe crabs, bits of shells, beer bottles and other seawrack, all shifted toward the blue, as if being viewed through water.

The artist liked the contrast of the 40-million-year-old horseshoe crab species and the day-old Budweiser bottles. Another of his composite photos, “Rockaway Surf,” shows another nearby beach on a wonderfully surly day moments before a humpback whale breached — Symmonds was too awestruck to take the shot, though he had his camera in his hand.

In Irv Gordon’s “French Cat with an Attitude #2,” a cat glowers back at the photographer while in his “French Cat with an Attitude #4” a dark Persian courts an aloof white shorthair through an ivy bordered window — I don’t know why these shots so capture the essence of France, but they do.

Allan Cyprys’ “Lets’ Do Lunch” series also has a Gallic flavor about it, though I’m not quite sure where the photos were taken. They are, at any rate, hilarious, especially “I’ll Be Looking For You,” a portrait of a plump girl who bugs her eyes coquettishly at the photographer while she eats her lunch before a bistro.

“Through the Lens” will be at RAA through June 29.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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