PDNB (Photographs Do Not Bend) Gallery isn’t letting a few decades sideline its taste in contemporary photography. Keith Carter: From Uncertain to Blue revisits Carter’s eye on the common folk of small town Texas in the 1980s. While Carter is certainly a respected name in the field, the exhibition lacks the improvisational spirit, potency, and range found in more recent projects I’ve seen on similar ground (work by Laura Wilson and Allison V. Smith respectively spring to mind, and that’s without even leaving Dallas city limits).
Each of From Uncertain to Blue‘s photos is named for the town where it was shot. These destinations were seemingly chosen only for having an interesting, folksy name — Paradise, Oatmeal, Industry, Pep, Air, Earth, Birthright, Looneyville, etc., so Carter’s black and white photographs are aiming to capture the strength and the value of an average Texas town as embodied by those towns boasting a curious name. Or something like that.
Too many of the 47 works in the show are composed with subject dead center. Ten post-eighties photos are included among the 47; you shall know them by their fuzzy edges. I grew bored quickly and wondered how a photographer of such reputation built a career on such repetition, then wondered if I am simply spoiled by the aforementioned Dallas photographers (two among many gifted shooters statewide). The show seems to say “Texans – they are characters!” The photographs are available as a coffee table book, also titled From Uncertain to Blue, with a foreword by Horton Foote, who liked to write plays and screenplays that seemed to say “Texans – they are characters!”
The best of the bunch is Garlic (1991) which breaks from all of Carter’s habits of which I now complain, but it is hidden behind some sort of poster board science project display that’s part of another exhibition called Pictures of Me (I think it’s gallery owner Burt Finger’s homage to himself. Or maybe a self-parody? I don’t care, plus that show will have closed by the time you’re reading this.). At $5000, Garlic is by far the most expensive piece in the show. Why is the strongest (and potentially most lucrative) photograph in the exhibition annulled by weak placement in a commercial gallery? Curious.
Keith Carter: From Uncertain to Blue runs through February 11, 2012, at PDNB Gallery in Dallas.
All images are copyrighted Keith Carter 2011.
This blog is called Don’t Look. Okay Look.
Betsy Lewis is a Dallas writer who enjoys a small town Dairy Queen.