Sunday, November 22, 2015

Josephine Sacabo at A Gallery for Fine Photography

In this exhibition, Josephine Sacabo explores the meandering, shadowy passageways of the psyche as a kind of ethereal visual architecture. Inspired by Juana La Loca, the 16th century "mad queen" of Spain who was imprisoned for 46 years, this series features spectral, dreamlike female figures positioned within intricately labyrinthine structures that look rock solid yet elusive as rays of reflected light. That duality conveys a fraught tension of gravitas and transcendence in complex compositions so delicately balanced as to evoke music, numerology or patterns of sacred geometry. Seen through the dark patina of old tintype processes, the images seem to glow with the dusky luminosity of the ages.

Sacabo rather modestly calls her works "manifestations of the written word" inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke, Charles Baudelaire, Vicente Huidobro and Stefane Mallarmé among others, but they can also mimic heat seeking missiles with the potential to illuminate the poetic impulse itself. Her use of antique processes takes us into a Proustian attic of memories, a place where time opens to allow entry into other worlds. That shadowy patina forces us to employ intuition to "see" what can never really be seen but is only felt--in works like Juana, top, where the mad queen stares defiantly back at us. Decades of confinement led some to regard her as a martyred mystic, and in Lost Hours a poetically disordered array of timepieces suggests a woozy, lurching sort of music of the spheres. The shadowy, infinitely receding arches of The Passageway take us through vaulted stone chambers reminiscent of ancient Moorish alchemical diagrams depicting the origins of time and space, but Juana reappears in Tristeza, in an otherworldly feminine profile that blends seamlessly with the ornamental filigree etched into her dank, stony confines. Here as in so many of the other works on view, the feminine and the spiritual appear as tidal forces that are only partially shaped--but never completely contained--by the stoneworks erected by mere empires. ~Bookhardt /  Juana and the Structures of Reverie: Tintype Photographs by Josephine Sacabo, Through Jan. 1, A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St, 568-1313.