Art Review: Photographer turns poet for his 'Emigrant Lake' exhibit

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

By Mary Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For his "Emigrant Lake" show at Silver Eye Center for Photography, Jeff Krolick took photos over four seasons in a boggy, thatched area that fringes the Oregon lake.
Click photo for larger image.

"Emigrant Lake: Photographs by Jeff Krolick," the Fellowship 2005 exhibition at Silver Eye Center for Photography, is a handsome fit to the upscale sophisticated look of the newly renovated gallery.

Krolick was selected for the $5,000 award and solo exhibition from 264 national and international entries by juror Lesley A. Martin, executive editor, Aperture Books, New York (she'll lecture here Friday).

His 22 square-format colored photographs were taken over four seasons in a boggy, thatched area that fringes the Oregon lake, but they are more abstraction than landscape.

Krolick locates composition within sprawling brambles and legions of dried plant stems, integrating natural color as a painter would, sometimes subtly and sometimes stridently. Without horizons or other indicators of perspective, the images at first seem to occupy a flat plane, but soon draw the eye past countless layers of clearly defined detail into their centers.

In January, maroon seed clusters dangle from arched branches that droop toward mats of gray withering foliage, each occupying half the frame and filling it with washes of color. March brings monochromatic patterns of limbs, twigs and dry grasses.

Most painterly are the summer scenes taken at placid water's edge, enlivened with the vibrant shapes and colors of unusual plants and sunspots, where shadows and reflections play optical tricks in amber depths, and trunks dissolve into thick and thin black brush strokes.

Occasionally Krolick breaks format. The viewfinder lifts to include a trail and distant shrubs, producing an image that reads like an Impressionist painting. A vivid blue puddle in another shot is reminiscent of an Andy Goldsworthy intervention.

Learning that "Emigrant Lake" is not a pristine environment nestled in a mountain valley accessible only on foot, but, rather, an artificial lake that attracts hordes of recreational traffic annually, only heightens Krolick's accomplishment.

Within this context, the significance of his, and concomitantly all, discovery is heightened: The poetic enhancement of daily life is in the hands (eyes) of the beholder.