The View from Inside 

Photographer Bing Wright at Boise Art Museum

Boise Art Museum is currently playing host to the work of New York based artist, Bing Wright, and in doing so, the museum has undergone a kind of spatial renovation. The exhibit includes photographs from a black and white series titled Wet Windows and a color series called Rain Windows.

Wright's life-sized photographs of rain-spattered windows taken from inside a Catskill farmhouse and framed to fit the depicted window frames, evoke a change of space when hung on a gallery wall. Given a degree of suspended disbelief, the space inside the gallery becomes a context for the windows. Being inside the gallery becomes being inside the artwork. Wright seems to be playing with an analogy from Renaissance perspective—of the picture plane as a window onto the world. Only in this case the direction of the analogy has been changed. Traditionally the subject of a picture was what was seen looking out, or through, the implied window. In Wright's case the subject seems to be more about the space inside the implied window. Because the physical focus of these photographs is on the panes of glass, or rather on the drops of rainwater clinging to that glass, and because the depth of that focus doesn't extend beyond the glass, the rain-soaked outdoors loses its physical presence in a sense. The view seen through the window becomes more like an illusion than an objective world.

I got the sense what interested Wright in these photographs was their ability to direct attention back toward the viewer, to make the viewer suddenly have a sense of his or her own subjective space. Using the tools of artifice that make art something other than everyday perception, Wright has created an aesthetic experience where self-consciousness is the subject. By hanging life-sized pictures of windows on the walls of a room, the space inside the room becomes "inside" in another way. And by firmly limiting the depth of focus in the photographs to the surface of the glass, the glass takes on a degree of opacity. The inability to focus on anything outside or through a window, a window that is a real physical presence, creates a sense of envelopment. The space in which you find yourself—as you stand in front of and among these windows—is effectively transformed. It is consciousness as farmhouse room.

Opacity and transparency have for a long time been used as equivalents for the material and spiritual realms in visual art. The surface of two-dimensional art and the illusion of space that can be created on that surface have a history of combat and cooperation and Wright is obviously intrigued by these elements. One could surmise his photographs comment on the nature of vision, how the world is altered by being seen, or is only seen through foggy glass. What impressed me the most about these pictures was simply their power to transform the space in front of them. For the most part, photographs are about the space inside their frames yet these works by Bing Wright seem more about evoking a subjective space outside their frames.

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