“Joel Leivick: In the Garden.” Visual Arts Gallery, Emory University.
These enchanting black-and-white photographs demonstrate the difference between looking and seeing. The California artist eschews the predictable views of Tuscan landscape (and elsewhere) in dense images that push against the picture plane and build backward in layered planes of matter and atmosphere.
Rich in detail, they can’t be perceived in a glance. The titles reinforce the point: In the picture above, the gnarly, sinuous branches silhouetted against a gray mist so dominate one’s initial impression that the wispy bit of crocheted silk on the right might go unnoticed but for its title, “Spider Web.”
Look for “Salsepuedes Apple,” in which leafless branches enmesh a flotsam of auto parts beside a ruined bus. Its effect, simultaneously awful and beautiful, is enhanced by Leivick’s presentation. He prints the photos on matte paper and floats them in frames without glass. All the better to enjoy the sensuous subtleties of whites, blacks and grays, to get close and let the eye do its work.
The exhibit is the second in the gallery’s Lucid Eye: A Year of Photography at Emory, 2009-2010, a year-long series that will consider key issues in contemporary photography.