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Guest Blog by Neal Rantoul
I don’t know about you but being able to pull off a creative life as a visual artist while balancing a career in a field that has nothing to do with making art is amazing and I couldn’t do it. Brian Kaplan somehow balances profession and being an artist at a high level beautifully.
In his day job he’s a lawyer, working in a role that is demanding and, at times, very intense. His relief from all that is to cruise Cape Cod off-season and make rich, fulfilling, ironic, funny, sad, complex, simple, smart, beautiful photographs. Kaplan’s aesthetic is informed by a pure and minimalistic sensibility. He uses present day tools and materials (including color film and a 4 x 5 view camera) with a subtle color palette. His has proven an ideal mechanism and construct in which to make delicately nuanced vignettes.
Kaplan’s solo exhibit, Not Your Vacation, just opened at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA and runs through November 9, 2014. The show’s title is so rich and resonant as to be perfect, giving him license to wander indoors as well as outdoors to make his pictures. There’s nothing quite like centers of American tourism with some wear on the elbows; a little seedy, worn down, fatigued even. Brian gets that so very well because he’s working from a base of knowledge. He knows Cape Cod. Actually, it’s as though he’s revealing the underbelly of the Cape tarnished by age and seasonal overuse.
Some of Brian’s pictures will haunt you. They do me. I highly respect his sense that the “Joy” ice cream cone simply must be in the picture. In fact it is the picture and it serves well as a symbol to define the show. But the photograph that slays me is the old TVs on the motel parking lot (hidden, by the way, in a small room off the main gallery). Out with the old, in with the new.
This is a wonderful show, pared down to 14 large prints by curator Jessica Roscio, reflecting Kaplan’s aesthetic perfectly: reductive, essential, crucial. She writes, “Kaplan’s photographs are about absence.” This, of course, is one of the strengths of photography that Kaplan works with so well; its ability to refer to things left outside the frame.
You know what I love? I love when you go to a show where the artist is using a place or a subject knowledgably, constructively, progressively and ambitiously as a platform for his or her ideas. I also love seamless technique. Brian gets that. He understands that to allow something with a minor flaw diminishes and denigrates the whole exhibition. This show is flawless.
Neal Rantoul is a career fine art photographer and educator living in the Boston area. He has a website and writes a blog as well: www.nealrantoul.com
For more information about the Danforth Museum show, including a schedule of artist talks by Brian Kaplan, go to: http://www.danforthart.org/exhibits.html
Feature image: “White Village Cottages” from the series Not Your Vacation by Brian Kaplan (courtesy of the artist)