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What would you choose to exhibit, to set the tone for a brand new gallery? In all its forms, art aspires to be transporting. Sometimes, it opens new worlds to us. And when it’s most effective, it touches us emotionally. Susan Nalband, director and curator of the newly opened 555 Gallery in South Boston, found inspiration for her gallery’s inaugural exhibit from “Moby Dick” author, Herman Melville.
“Barbarous Coasts” presents the work of two photographers David Mattox and Neal Rantoul, who have gone to the ends of the earth to create images that illustrate the rapturous beauty of the sea, its adjacent landscape and people. Ms. Nalband recalls, “when I first saw these breathtaking photos I was reminded of Melville’s famed quote, ‘I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.’, which I feel best articulates the work of these two photographers, each from vastly different ranges of experience.”
David Mattox is the captain of his own licensed salmon net fishing camp in Alaska. His collection, “Fish Camp,” is an ongoing series of photographs documenting his decade long work on the Upper Cook Inlet of Alaska. Mattox explains, “In ten summers spent in Alaska, of all the things I have pointed my camera at, I have become most drawn to make pictures of the people that I work with because I find the allure of Alaska’s character more prominently displayed there than anywhere else.”
Indeed, in Mattox’s images, his subjects provide the literal and figurative color, framed against the rustic backdrop of the Alaskan coastline. Their figures are set against the elements in dynamic compositions that combine with their bright clothing and direct expressions to reflect the hard work and hard play emblematic of their lives in the camp. The theme of perseverance in a remote setting, often as tedious as it can be harsh, is evident in Mattox’s portraits of enduring human spirit.
Neal Rantoul, a prize-winning Boston landscape photographer, recently completed an artist-in-residency program in Hofsos, Iceland, resulting in his newest series, “Iceland Rock”. Rantoul has a distinctive way of combining viewpoint, scale and geological terrain to present the Icelandic landscape in a way that is at once detailed and expansive, serene and powerful.
Rantoul routinely renders much more familiar landscapes, like wheat fields and mountainsides, with graceful magnificence. What he is able to achieve with the far more unusual geologic structures in Iceland is quite astounding. I’ve sometimes commented disparagingly on the “new normal” of outsized gallery prints, but Rantoul’s landscapes both demand and deserve this larger scale – they can take your breath away.
“Barbarous Coasts” will be exhibited at 555 Gallery in South Boston through March 22nd, 2014. A public reception and gallery talk with Neal Rantoul will be held on March 15th from 5-8PM. For information and directions, go to: http://www.555gallery.com/exhibitions/