Photographer John Dugdale is known for his use of antique cameras and an ancient Cyanotype process that produces vivid blue-and-white images. Though Dugdale has lost more than 74 percent of his sight due to an AIDS-related illness, he shows no signs of slowing down. The 47 works on view in "The Unanswered Question" were inspired by the poems of Emily Dickinson, whose words appear on placards throughout the gallery.
The strength of the exhibition lies in Dugdale's choice of simple compositions, still-lifes, nudes and portraits. He demonstrates an ability to establish a haunting mood without relying on the sentimentalized nostalgia-ridden scenes that often dominated his past exhibitions. Among the many refined images on view are Auto-portrait in Summer Kitchen, which shows the artist nude, resting on a counter and bathed in an ethereal light. My favorite work in the show is The Opening of a Door, an almost minimalist image of a door whose surface is inflected with patches of bright white light, seemingly shining through a window. This accidental merger of light and shadow, reality and illusion, adds an exciting new dimension to Dugdale's quiet and contemplative work.
John Dugdale, "The Unanswered Question," Nov. 19, 1999-Jan. 9, 2000, at Wessel + O'Connor, 242 West 26th St., New York, N.Y. 10001.