Howard House: David Hartt – Of Great Societies, Arthur S. Aubry – New Work

I began my great First First Thursday Tour of 2009 at Howard House, which is currently showing the monumental photographs of two artists: David Hartt’s Of Great Societies, and Arthur S. Aubry’s New Work.

David Hartt‘s work is in the front room when you enter the gallery. They are austere, and abandoned, often showing places of work where objects of civic or cultural pride (flags, busts, mailboxes, an encyclopedia) have become as worn and mundane as their surroundings. Hartt presents a pessimistic, grim view of America’s working culture, as though we have already given up on trying to revive our foundering economy and simply walked away. The images are eerie, and almost form an anti-propoganda.

I don’t like them, but this is probably because, with a few exceptions, I don’t find them compositionally all that strong. However, emotionally, they provide an interesting counter-balance to the Obamamania of last fall.

Howard House

Local I, Chicago, 55 West Van Buren Street, Chicago, Illinois (David Hartt, 2008) Image: Howard House

Howard House

Urban Farm at The Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant and parenting teens, Detroit, Michigan (David Hartt, 2008) Image: Howard House

I made my way into the back room to see Arthur S. Aubry‘s photographs. He photographs great machines – gears, pipes, turbines – and then produces large scale photographs of them. They are cool images, but totally boring. Aubrey hasn’t much to say in his work, other than to gesture vaguely towards the death of industrialism, and to celebrate the Age of Great Machines by photographing these dinosaurs. I got the feeling that he was a bit like a kid wandering around a train yard with a camera in hand.

My other issue with these images is that they just weren’t big enough. Aubry is from the Pacific Northwest, and maybe he forgets that if you show locally, most of us have been to Gasworks: we’ve seen gears that are twenty feet in diameter. Aubry’s photos are perfect and symmetrical, but they lose the sense of scale that makes these great machines so wondrous.

Howard House

Seapac (Arthur S. Aubry, 2007) Image: Howard House

Howard House

Freeman Baler (Arthur S. Aubry, 2007) Image: Howard House

Both shows run at Howard House through February 21.


~ by ecp on January 9, 2009.

One Response to “Howard House: David Hartt – Of Great Societies, Arthur S. Aubry – New Work”

  1. […] Howard House: emptiness, abandonment and  industrialism in the large-scale photographs of David Hartt and Arthur S. Aubry […]

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