Patricia Wilder's photographs could not have looked more at home in the Dyer Arts Center on the RIT campus. Her exhibition, Forms and Surfaces, is a striking presentation of nearly 90 photographs. But the title of the exhibit could have included the space itself. The elegant modernist space is all about forms and surfaces.
Towering white walls are reflected in the highly polished rose marble floors. A grid of skylights allows for lots of natural light. An all-glass wall separates the grand gallery from another, more intimate space. And a massive "floating" gray cement staircase looms large in the space, allowing visitors a bird's-eye view of the work below.
Immediately upon entering, the visitor becomes engaged with a variety of pictures composed of bold color, geometric forms, lines, spatial divisions, and a beautiful, even light. As such, these photographs have become vibrant traces of nature and the natural world gone subtly abstract.
Anchoring the installation is the long, east wall where five large images, running from left to right, hold court: A suspended light bulb hangs down amidst the rich orange and red color-fields in Illumination while Offering, with an assuredly rectilinear mantle, maintains the chromatic thread. In the center is Threshold, a bug's-eye view of small paving stones leading up to a stone stairway against a backdrop of warm Tuscan yellow. Contact continues the theme of the intoxicating orange oblivion against which the slightly skewed grid of a rusted wire fence rests, while Inner BlueSpace completes the quintet. It's as if the elements of the space and the photographs have conspired to be there for each other to provide pleasure for the viewer. All together it's a perfect moment in modernist design.
It comes as no surprise to find out that Wilder and the architect of the gallery, Robert Macon, were close friends who shared similar aesthetic sensibilities. Indeed, Wilder's photographs are not about the specific thing, whether it be a plant, a rock, or a building, but they are about the photographic. They are about how the photograph makes you feel; about a quality that allows you to see the shapes, surfaces, textures, and colors bathed in a special light and brought forth through the camera by a discerning and discriminating eye. Pause for a moment and contemplate the cerulean Counterpoint or the green-blue contrapposto of Contemplation...
Like an architect choosing specific building materials, Wilder arranges the elements within the frame to create quiet and contemplative, albeit ambiguous, spaces. Her decisions regarding the individual placement of photographs within Macon's space continue to reflect this meditation on form and design. We see this especially in the groupings of the smaller photographs --- where the arrangement of 10 is really much more like one, big compositional grid.
In a way, it's almost as if the gallery becomes the image, a kind of picture of a modernist space while Wilder's images are the building blocks --- the materials that construct the space.
You should go if you like the spatially evocative.
Forms and Surfaces: Patricia Wilder Photographs, through December 9 at the NTID Dyer Arts Center in the L. B. Johnson Building, on the RIT campus. Gallery hours: Monday through Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday 1 to 3:30 p.m. 475-6855