“The Absence of the Subject”

Michael Somoroff masters addition by subtraction

At first glance, the works in “The Absence of Subject” seem pretty basic. “They look like pictures that would be sold at Pottery Barn, but when you realize what’s gone into them — it’s pretty rad,” says Deborah Colton Gallery assistant Evan Garza. For the show, artist Michael Somoroff (the mastermind behind the Rothko Chapel installation Illumination I) took photographs from legendary German photographer August Sanders’s collection “People of the Twentieth Century” and removed the people. His meticulous touch-ups make it look as if the people were never there — that he returned to the original scenes and took pictures without them. All that remains in Dentist is a chair against a wall; in Pharmacist, a tall bush next to a brick wall; in Blind Children, two opened books on a table; and in Working Class Family, an empty chair.

Somoroff’s process makes these more than just pictures of stuff; the absence of the subject, as it were, puts everything into a dark, goose bump-inducing context. But Somoroff really raises hairs as he brings the photographs to life. In a darkened room of the gallery, three photos are projected onto a wall. They seem motionless, but after a while the viewer notices subtle motions — the leaves in Pharmacist softly rustle in the wind, as do the book pages in Blind Children and the grass in Working Class Family. Garza says the motions were created using only the altered photograph and a computer animation program. The process took up most of the two years Somoroff spent working on the show. It seems his patience paid off. 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Through April 30. Deborah Colton Gallery, 2500 Summer. For information, call 713-869-5151 or visit www.deborahcoltongallery.com. Free.
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Starts: March 7. Continues through April 19, 2008

 
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