Ralph Gibson and Keith Carter: chiaroscuro

G. Gibson Gallery, Seattle
October 1 - November 14


Untitled (1991),
dye transfer

This dual installation of the art of two highly diverse photographers, Ralph Gibson and Keith Carter, points up as much as anything the phenomenon of discriminatingly defining the culture of place - regardless of stylistic or technical variance.

Gibson's minimalist and elegant colour pictorialism seems almost slick when compared to Carter's moody down-home black-and-white work, but the effective difference is in the light years which separate their worlds. Gibson has done a lot of highly significant photography in France and Italy - a stranger in strange lands - while Carter (although also respectably travelled) has concentrated on the look and feel of his native East Texas.

Gibson has been lauded, especially by French writers, for his ability to pinpoint, often only in snippets of particularized colour and random composition (some as spare as Barnett Newman paintings,) the essence - the French would say the "je ne sais quoi" - of place: without resorting to hackneyed, tourist-viewed history and monumentality. More distinctively, Gibson apprehends moments of vision of which even the French are unaware.

Carter's world carries no comparable, inferred mystique, yet he extracts from the most humble, colourless and unlikely landscape and social realism apparitions which can only be read as magical or surreal. Quoting a friend, Carter has written ". . . all great art reminds you of something you already knew, but didn't know you knew."

Both Ralph Gibson and Keith Carter could qualify for greatness under this definition, despite the wildly disparate arenas they have chosen.

© Ted Lindberg