Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mary Voelz Chandler, Rocky Mountain News

Images reflect bygone process in photography
By Mary Voelz Chandler, Rocky Mountain News
Published December 18, 2008

Dawn Curls, a collodion wet plate image by Mark Sink and Kristen Hatgi.

More than a search for comfort steers photographers back in time to work in archival methods when the rest of reality is navigating a high-tech future at warp speed.

The need to experiment and understand unusual photographic techniques keeps things interesting, for one thing, and offers a reminder of the way in which humans have captured images since the 1830s.

That's the intellectual takeaway from "Light and Time," a generous selection of glass-plate images on view at Rule Gallery.

Area photographer and arts advocate Mark Sink and partner and photographer Kristen Hatgi have stepped back into the 1850s to work in the exacting - i.e., unforgiving - process in which a piece of glass is coated with the chemical stew called collodion, dipped in silver nitrate, put in the camera, then exposed as a photograph was shot. This needed to be done quickly, while the plate was still wet.

Sink and Hatgi have a knack for innovation and a penchant for the romantic side of photography, and here have parlayed that into a beautiful exhibition.

Part of that derives from the plates themselves: almost 80 small, blue or black glass objects displaying nudes, fanciful scenes, dreamy landscapes (lots of ethereal aspen here), and the skillful use of props and costuming. These shimmering works are displayed on shelves, lined up in a fashion that plays up the historical nature of the work on view. It has the air of a photography museum, exploring a process that had its day in the sun and is back for a brief reappearance.

That's the other element that adds to the appeal of "Light and Time." Gallery owner Robin Rule again has capitalized on the long, narrow confines of her space to install this show, and two others, to good advantage.

Behind the wet plate imagery she installed "The Untold Story," a small show of photographs by Sink from his days in 1980s New York. These are predominantly candid silver prints and chromogenic prints of Andy Warhol in a range of situations, at work and at play - another recollection of a decade in which the creation of art and the spirit of the time was different from today.

The standout image, though, is the 1988 photograph Man Dies, a shot of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat standing near a work bearing those words. Sink notes that he took the photo shortly before Basquiat's death, at a show at the gallery run by Vrej Baghoomian.

There is a sweetness to this piece, countered by the shock of realizing that the artist - so young, provocative and influential - was coming to the end of his very short life.

Mark Sink's Man Dies, an image of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, taken at his last show a few days before his death in 1988.

Light and Time/The Untold Story

* What: Wet plate collodion photographs by Mark Sink and Kristen Hatgi, with 1980s portraits by Sink of Andy Warhol and others in the New York art scene.

* Where and when: Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway; through Jan. 10

* Information: 303-777-9473;

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