Photographing installations is an art form in itself. These aren’t portraits, not scenes or even re-enactments. Whereas photography can often be a medium to capture a moment, an emotion that other forums don’t offer, installation photography is by its essence staged, composed photos of a set that is still temporary and sometimes fundamentally artificial.
And therefore when done well, they are like paintings and sculptures, pieces crafted from start to finish.
For some sophisticated and beautiful examples of this, check out the work of Norwegian Rune Guneriussen, whose photographs of lights draped over a far northern landscape – over pines and cedars and snow – are as lovely as you can capture. Often exhibited in Europe, this is his first solo outing in the United States, at Waltman Ortega Fine Arts.
Guneriussen takes classic shade lamps, or office lamps, and decorates a dense northern forest with them, invading an unpopulated, quiet and lonely landscape with a human intervention. He photographs these interventions at twilight, when as he says the light is the most incredible blue, and then removes the lighted devices with no trace left behind. A stealth human-made intervention. In one photo, the cedar pine needles look like psychedelic blue moss when set against dozens of desktop lamps planted among the branches, with the light of the remnants of the day peeking in through the treetops above. These are gorgeous contemplations on nature and man’s inevitable markings on it.
In the second solo show at the gallery, Catalan artist Aleix Plademunt also photographs his own interventions on landscapes – this time more southern, the scraggly, dusty plains of Spain. But here again the artist picks out what might seem to be some of the more undeveloped spaces, and pictures our footprints on it. In a series of photographs, he has placed dozens of wooden chairs (empty of actual humans) facing a power plant, with a crop duster plane coming towards this unknown audience.
These are also quiet pieces, incredibly lovely, but suggesting an invasion that we can never take back. Never heavy handed, but evoking a sense that nothing on earth has been left untouched, a sobering thought.
“A Clear Epical Dominance” by Rune Guneriussen; “Espectadores” by Aleix Plademunt run through March 31 at the Waltman Ortega Fine Art gallery, 2233 NW 1st Pl., Miami; 305-576-5335; www.waltmanortega.com.