|Crescent Vase, Box and Mug III
Philadelphia artist Susan Fenton's current exhibit is perfectly suited to its winter setting at Swarthmore College, where the buildings' imposing gray stone, flecked with silver, overlooks a snowy hillside. The lack of color outdoors is reflected in the inkjet and gelatin silver prints of Tableaux: 2006-2010
, a simply-presented, two room exhibit at the college's List Gallery. The works are largely black, white, and grey, with one room housing Fenton's brilliant White
series and another the dark Nocturne
The works are, for the most part, strikingly geometrical, displaying familiar objectsballs, boxes, vasesarranged on what appear to be shelves and columns. White
's inkjet prints live up to their name: they're nearly monochrome, and their simplicity and stillness evokes an eerie calm. Fenton was influenced by the 20th-century Italian artist Giorgio Morandi, she explained in a lecture last week, noting his influence in the works' prominent horizontal lines.
Across the room are four works from Fenton's Ballinglen
series. These pieces are visually similar to those in the White
series, but instead of digital printouts, they're painted gelatin silver prints. The objects pictured here are items the artist found in Ballycastle, Ireland; many are simply litter, rocks, and driftwood washed ashore. While the arrangement of the objects in the White
series seems almost mathematical, Ballinglen
combines the items into unified shapes.
stand in sharp contrast to the pieces in the next room, those making up the exhibit's most memorable series, Nocturne.
These selenium-toned gelatin silver prints are overwhelmingly black still-lifes. Where White
's images feel very stablethe objects are firmly placed on surfacesNocturne
's works are precarious. They show, for example, eggs barely balanced on table corners and vases perched at the top edges of Greek columns. Fenton used exposures of several hours when taking some of the pictures, whose light comes from the full moon. The long exposures result in a sense of movement, emphasized by the way the prints are arranged. Groups of images hanging next to each other show the same set of objects in changing light; you can, in effect, see the passage of time. I don't remember much science from school, but Nocturne
reminded me that when we look at an object, what we see is reflected light. That was most clear in the images titled Crescent Vase, Box, and Mug
: as the moon shifts, the vase becomes nothing more than a shining sliver.
Through Feb. 27, List Gallery, Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore.