Across the Street: Photographs by Daniel Amoni
Through Oct. 30
Shows in Carrboro's tiny Nested Gallery necessarily require editorial restraint. Accordingly, its new show, Daniel Amoni's Across the Street, is a collection of only nine photographs, described in the gallery notes as "urban snapshots" that Amoni captured on walks taken mainly in San Francisco, but also in New York and New Jersey.
There is a tension between this breezy description and the consistency of vision in the works on view. The images, some of which were taken years apart and on different coasts, have an almost uncanny unity. Amoni's work is so rigorously composed that it is easy to think of the images solely in terms of formal abstraction. This is probably most blatant in a work like "Mission, SF" (2006), which, if you squint, could be mistaken for a Mondrian painting. The piece tightly frames a contrapuntal orchestration of architectural elements—bright orange reflective panels, dark windows outlined with white metal frames and a single vertical strip of a matte gray-blue-tiled mosaic wall. "North Beach, SF" (2008), is an assemblage of fuse boxes, pipes and wire mounted on the back of a building. All of these elements, including the brick wall upon which they are affixed and the awning that covers them, have been painted in a uniform dark orange, a monochrome configuration that resembles a Louise Nevelson sculpture. Every photograph in Across the Street adheres to a distinctive color palette that expands upon a central theme of red-orange and gray-blue.
Aside from its considerable formal qualities, Amoni's work conveys subtle but compelling narrative impulses. Three of the photographs on view contain figures of people. Despite the temporal and geographic distance between "Under 101, SF" (2006) and "Metuchen, NJ" (2008), the two images feel like twins. Each is a medium shot that features a lone male figure seen in profile walking along a sidewalk, his gaze downward at a 45-degree angle. In both instances, the man carries his belongings with him—in "Under 101" the figure carries a backpack, in "Metuchen," a briefcase. Amoni's signature palette is in full effect in each image, culminating in "Under 101" with the orange glow of light through a mottled glass window and in "Metuchen" in the bold geometry of a painted brick facade and echoed neatly in the man's red tie. In each photograph, the walking figure is consumed by an architecturally constructed environment. There is very little sky. But minor details sustain an emotional balance in these works and keep them from becoming clichés of oppressive urban life. In "Under 101," free-form graffiti—traces of energetic human activity—dissuades the composition from reading as sterile or obviously negative. Another countervailing measure of positivity is to be found in a printed poster that reads, "Notice of Intent to Approve a City Project at this Location." In "Metuchen," a single young tree suggests the promise of new possibilities, as do the branches of larger trees that can be seen just around the corner.
There's very little judgment or moralizing in these images. If there's any tipping the balance toward a happy ending, it has more to do with Amoni's consistent eye and his capacity for beautifully balanced compositions than any overt narrative conclusions.
Nested Gallery displayed a show of Amy White's work in 2007.