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Carlos Tarrats: New Photography

By Kate Noonan | Posted 1/21/2009

Carlos Tarrats: New Photography

Through Jan. 24 at Gallery Imperato

If you pay any attention to current events, you might have the growing feeling that the world is on the verge of implosion. Whether or not the artist intends it, this apocalyptic anxiety resonates in Carlos Tarrats' strangely disturbing series of still life photographs at Gallery Imperato. Tarrats maintains in his artist statement that the works are more deeply concerned with a simpler concept: the acceptance of what is, despite the apparent visions of violence, death, and upheaval he presents. But his excessive use of evocative colors and dramatic imagery ultimately overshadows the goals he describes.

At first glance, Tarrats' photographs appear to have been digitally altered, but his artistic process is much more layered, active, and painterly. The smears, drips, and scratches of paint that lend a horrific ambiance to the works are photographed at the same time as his botanical subjects. In order to achieve this unusual effect, Tarrats paints on clear sheets of Plexiglas, wiping and scratching away areas with turpentine, cloths, and palette knives. The painted Plexiglas is then placed in front of the still life and both elements are photographed together. Tarrats thus creates the effect of a window within a window.

Unfortunately, Tarrats' exploration of Zen-like acceptance is often muddied by his color choices. In the few works where Tarrats' exercises restraint, as in the muted pallet of "Untitled 29," his vision of acceptance only begins to form. But the majority of the works, splashed with a crimson red paint uncannily reminiscent of blood, immediately call forth associations with death, destruction, and brutality.

One of the exhibition's most unsettling photographs is "Untitled 22," in which an uprooted plant hangs upside down, suspended from a spool of yarn against a black backdrop. Petals line the ground below and red paint splatters across the surface like evidence in a crime scene. Although the subjects are merely plants, the portrait style in which they are shot lends them a human scale, and you feel an uncomfortable sense of voyeurism and illicit discovery when viewing. Here, as with the majority of Tarrats' works in this exhibition, the actual response contradicts the artist's intentions. Rather than accepting the scene for what it is, you question it, wondering what has happened and why.

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Tags: carlos tarrats, photography, gallery imperato

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