Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why Do We Close Our Eyes To See ?

"Why do we close our eyes to see, to dream, to imagine paradise." These words came to me while thinking about Keith Carter's new body of photographs.there was such a strong reaction I had to call Keith to ask questions.

Keith Carter and my history with him began in the early nineties,with a photograph that the world would come to know as Fireflies. As a young collector I walked into the Witkin Gallery in New York to see an exhibition by a guy name Keith Carter,whose work I was unfamiliar with. At that time three books had been published. FROM UNCERTAIN TO BLUE :1988 ,THE BLUE MAN :1990 and MOJO : 1992. I bought The Blue Man book because of the intense color of the cover as well as the photographs

The Witkin Gallery's exhibition of images from Mojo was intoxicating. Keith's photographs were defiant to what was being shown in New York at that time.The New York Times in their review mentioned a new southern form of magic realism. I saw the show and wanted it all, many of the images have over time become signature statements about Keith's photographic art.
The next day I went out and put a deposit on Fireflies a decision, of no regrets,it was the most expensive image I had ever bought.

1996 was the year I met Keith Carter. After I spoke about Fireflies I was told he was in New York for AIPAD and had heard about the speech that was part of a panel decision called " The Joy of Collecting ". When you, meet Keith a connection is made instantly that here is a man that enjoys life, enjoys the human experience, enjoys making photographs. He gave me a nickname that I liked,a bond was made.

Over the years I have talked about Fireflies ,but enough of that.I am using the contact image recently printed to open this post. Wanted you to see a little bit about the process the choice
that became one of the most recognize images taken at the end of the last century .

Recently Keith and I were on the phone, being best buds.Me trying to be delicate about the eye surgery and the visual changes in the work. Keith being aggressively uplifting about life from day to day.Keith describes the effects the operation on one of his eyes has on his sight.I understood because I am also suffering from issues of vision that requires treatment.One of the side effect is sudden burst of light,like fireworks.While taking notes abandon I stopped only to listen.

I do not review at best I hope that my words and choice of images allows you to feel and see what I am feeling.If photography as an art form is supposed to be about the immediate the directness of artists and viewer.then that should be all that is needed

When viewing Keith's new images,I felt something was being given to me. A question that always seem to linger in the back of my mind came forth. How do we see? what is the difference between looking and seeing? I sometimes think we fail to see with eyes open and I do not know why.

I had realization about Firefiles a few days ago when I went back to look at it again .I can see how that picture of childhood wonder is connected to Imagined Paradise, Keith Carter's latest body of work.

Looking at Keith Carter new images I immediately thought of a nineteen century French artist named Odilon Redon whose drawings and prints were celebrated by Joris-Karl Huysmans in his book titled, rebours (Against Nature). It is the story of an aesthete. Rebours became a symbolic guide of what an artist with out bounds could achieve.It dictum was live and experience it all Life should be art for art's sake's

I also went back to look at the first photograph created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 this small almost little known image became a part of that conversation ,as well japanese calligraphy and brush painting.

There is a passionate energy almost like a storm bursting across Keith's new photographs.
Striking scratches, brush strokes and pools of darkness on the paper with maybe the purpose of revealing what can not be seen .Forcing you to look to see,to think about what is paradise,how do we see it?

I asked for one direct quote and was given this, "I am beguiled by the quirkiness and majesty of ordinary people, places, and things."I have know him since 1996 but we really met in in 1995 when I saw Fireflies and fell under its' spell. Keith has moved forward from this quintiseniual image but there is line to his new work that can not be dismiss.

Keith is preparing for a new exhibition to open at McMurtrey Gallery in Houston Texas on March 24 2012


  1. Looking vs. seeing. Thinking vs. feeling. Judging vs. accepting.

    It is so easy to do the former(s) and not the latter(s) when evaluating work that is new, and different, perhaps, than what we expected.

    Robert Storr said, "An artist is measured, in the first instance, by the difficulty of the problem [he] chooses to confront."

    There is so much more to this new work by Keith Carter than initially meets the eye; more, certainly, than the latest "gimmick." Thank you, John, for leading us so assuredly to its greater depths.

    Keith Carter's evolution as an artist has been and continues to be an inspiration. His freedom of expression, his eager willingness to expand his vision beyond the bounds of traditional photography, all the while remaining rooted in it, is a vivid indicator of what the art of photography can encompass and reveal.