Donald McKenna
“The Theatre of Buildings”
On display February 22 – April 30, 2017
Opening reception on March 3 (6-9pm) during First Fridays in Grand Center

Donald McKenna – The Theatre of Buildings

Among the plastic arts, photography offers the greatest possibilities, which is to say that it employs many interactions (that of the artist to the work, the viewer to the work, the subject to the work, etc.). While most photographs seek to capture a height of action, some images rely on allusion; however, in order for those to work, the viewer needs to be familiar enough with the subject to grasp the connection. Of course, there are some representations of human experience that are universal, or at least nearly so. It is in this space that Don McKenna’s work sits.

Through four decades, Mr. McKenna has pursued the “narrative possibilities of a place or thing”. He accomplishes this in a number of ways. First, he uses a 4×5 film camera that slows his process down. The large format film makes him more contemplative of what he encounters and makes his compositions more considered. The deliberate action of taking pictures means that his viewing is less tethered to the mechanical aspects of the camera and more harmonized to the process of engaging visually and emotionally with a place. Second, he is sensitive to the theatre of buildings, or to put it another way, the fact that a building is a stage where human actors perform the drama of their lives. He looks for the traces of these lives lived, which in his photographs reverberate a familiar quality that the viewer can always recognize, if not always summarize. Very simply, McKenna’s photographs present the stage after the performance has ended in a way that echoes, alludes to or commemorates what has occurred there.

Famed photography critic and theorist Gerry Badger calls this style “quiet photographs”, and classifies photographers like Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld in the category.

Jason Gray, Curator