By: Susan Boulanger

Gallery Kayafas • Boston, MA • www.gallerykayafas.com • February 14–March 16, 2008

Kayafas JJ08Living among mostly disregarded shadows, we experience daily what psychologists term negative hallucination, or the failure to perceive the visibly present. But shadows indicate more than obstructed light—they represent the psychic doubling equated with death, what architectural historian Richard Etlin calls “the silent partner that every mortal carries within … the unending nothingness that each person will become.” Neglecting shadows is active avoidance, an attempt to claim the purity and eternity of light.

Yet the shadow has been embraced as part of life’s organic whole, notably in Japanese culture. In Katherine Gulla’s compelling exhibition Night & Day at Gallery Kayafas, the sinuous shadows from her Arboretum series also provide powerful reminders of the sensuality and beauty of the ephemeral.

Gulla records the shadows of leafless trees, soft-edged in diffuse winter light, digitally manipulated to eliminate any trace of the ground on which they fell. Printed onto rigid acrylic sheets, they become objects of ethereal solidity. Leaning against a wall, lit from above, the panels’ cast shadows double and deepen the images’ shadows. The slight displacement, a visual vibration, suggests dimensionality and movement. The effect recalls Kertész’s sometimes vertiginous, sometimes intimate, shadow-images.

Although conceived and executed with a unified vision and technique, Gulla’s images each convey the individuality of natural forms. Crossing limbs in Shadow #2 capture block-like voids of light in an almost geometric pattern, progressing from concentrated darkness to lambency, frontally deployed across the surface. The more overtly biomorphic forms of Shadow #5 extend claw-like into a receding plane, echoing shadows that emphasize the motion of the curving limbs.

These images’ negative, the night of Night & Day, appears in Gulla’s paintings of automobile head- and taillights reflected on shimmering dark grounds effectively mimicking rain-slicked asphalt. Vertical lines of color, slender and straight as young tree trunks, slash the darkness in Headlights Aerial. Color billows in Asphalt 6,and all but fills the surface, solidifying light into a monolith both honoring and fighting the dark.

About loss, Freud writes that the “shadow of the object [falls] upon the ego.” Gulla’s twinned inversions of shadow and light, darkness and color, invoke our human need to endure both presence and absence. Their beauty invokes that which makes such endurance bearable.

—Susan Boulanger

June/July 2008


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