Jolie Laide--Pretty, Ugly--is a contradictory French term composed of precise opposites albeit subjective ones that resolve themselves in enigmatically positive connotations. (A little like the French phrase un je ne sais quoi.) It is commonly used in the feminine singular to refer to someone (or something) which may at first seem rather "ugly" as opposed to appealing in a conventional way. However, a symbiosis which merges and overrides the contradictory components makes the Jolie Laide charming, seductive intriguing and even alluring.The photographs of Renan Cepeda, Miska Draskoczy and Cassio Vasconellos, which are selected for this joint exhibition are of desolate, abandoned, wasted or simply plain landscapes and constructions, urban and rural, of varying scale. At first glance all these sites are devoid of traditional aesthetic grace and rudimentary maintenance or upkeep; nor is there much in the way of architectural or environmental harmony or warmth in the depicted areas.
Nevertheless, each of these 3 artists has chosen to create powerful high contrast images drenched with color, natural or, manipulated, all of which transcend the basic elements that comprise their scenes. The end products are handsome, taut images. The abandoned shanties of rural Northeast Brazil, are documented as art and national history, the desolate beams and deserted back lots of the quintessentially industrialized Sao Paulo, and the murky waters and banks of a polluted canal with a checkered history that is being reclaimed all metamorphose in the hands of these artists into works of art that exemplify the meaning of "jolies laides.”
Each of these artists has and continues to work independently of one another. These works were created in response to their own personal visions and their own stylistic guidelines.
Cassio Vasconcellos is largely self-taught with eclectic influences including Marcos Ferraz, best known for panoramic photographs of early 20th century Rio de Janeiro. Vasconcellos shot his Polaroid Sx-70 snapshots, entitled "Noturnos" or "Nocturnes", of deserted areas of Sao Paulo using his car lights for illumination and private security for his personal safety. He subsequently made them into archival digital prints.
Renan Cepeda, a photojournalist who worked for Jornal do Brazil, was originally influenced by the 1930's Bauhaus experimentation that flourished In Sao Paulo. He continues to experiment with infra-red film and digital printing producing, what he terms “graffiti”, resulting in an ever-expanding record of historical sites which began with the abandoned shanties in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil.
Miska Drakoczy, a film and video chronicler of social and regional quirks, now dedicates himself to photography. He has been recording the environmental detoxification and the physical and social resuscitation of his neighborhood Gowanus, Brooklyn, NY, its canal and surrounding environs. Interestingly Gowanus, with its whispered history of illicit activities and untoward properties, has suddenly developed an allure of its own.
Tepper Takayama Fine Arts
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