In art, there is a certain point where romanticism and magic realism intersect. In photography, that point, or place, is southern Louisiana and adjoining regions. It's a legacy that was epitomized in the late, legendary New Orleans photographer, Clarence Laughlin, a self-proclaimed "extreme romantic" who became America's first surrealist photographer in the 1930s. His legacy lives on today in an array of Louisiana photographers including Josephine Sacabo among others, and extends slightly west into Beaumont, Texas, where Keith Carter has long pursued his dreamily localized form of magic realism. Both employ a hybrid of digital techniques and archaic processes and both are featured in shows at A Gallery for Fine Photography. Sacabo's photogravure expo, like her recent book, is titled Nocturnes, but there are also some exciting new images where her baroque feminine mysticism takes a taut new turn. Inspired by the late Brazilian author Clarice Lispector, arguably the most psychological figure in Latin American fiction, works like Geometry of Discord, above left, or The Now Instant, bottom, convey something of the confluence of circumstance and emotion that can lead to intuitive epiphanies of one sort or another. There is a near constructivist formalism about these new works, a nod, perhaps, to Lispector's Ukrainian birth before emigrating with her parents to Brazil as a child in the 1920s.
Keith Carter's Natural Histories series lives up to its name in images made using archaic lenses to take us through a looking glass into a parallel universe where feral humans and decorous animals occupy a whimsical Darwinian wonderland. They may originate in east Texas, but Carter's images delve into the rich recesses of mythology and the human psyche to explore the common threads of human and animal attraction in forms ranging from the luminous blue wings of the Blue Atlas Moth, above, to the mating games of formally attired humans in archaic bal masques. All appear as artifacts, reminders that we are products of the same earth with all of the beauty and bestiality that implies. ~D. Eric Bookhardt
Natural Histories: Photographs by Keith Carter; Nocturnes: Photographs by Josephine Sacabo; Through January, A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., 568-1313
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