Laura Dodson at Kouros Gallery

Laura Dodson, Yes Is No (2009), archival pigment print, 28″ x 29″; courtesy Kouros Gallery

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Laura Dodson, whose photographs are the subject of an exhibition at Kouros Gallery, seamlessly melds immaculate artifice and unapologetic romanticism, crystalline execution and unruly states of feeling.

Trained as a traditional photographer, Dodson turned away from “the world in all its unpredictability” to pursue a more internalized vision contrived in the studio. Selectively employing a variety of discarded objects—a toy airplane, locks of hair, a glittery slipper or an apricot that has been bitten into—she immerses and isolates them within shadowy, aqueous environments.

In doing so, Dodson invests the ephemeral with symbolic portent it barely seems capable of shouldering. That’s the point: Brooding monumentality intensifies a pressing sense of psychological vulnerability.

Dodson’s meditations on memory, loss and transience are rendered with exquisite attention to detail, bringing sweeping concentration to her silky elisions of space and incident. Textures are given uncanny clarity—the weave of the synthetic rose featured in “Dusting Still” is particularly arresting—and the palette, while keyed to black, is punctuated by saturated and, at times, livid tones. The smoldering oranges at the center of “Between Ripe” immediately snag the eye, but it’s the painterly slur of green, yellow, blue and magenta in “Yes Is No” that defines Dodson’s gift as a colorist.

The work’s overriding theatricality is Post-Modern in its calculation, but don’t go mistaking Dodson for Cindy Sherman or Laurie Simmons: The photographs are absent the glib affectation that is the hallmark of the Pictures Generation. Instead, Dodson adopts clinical means—the artist likens her process to working in a laboratory—to intimate, even tender ends. Within these luminous dreamscapes is a distinctive and deeply humane vision.

© 2010 Mario Naves

Originally published in the March 20, 2010 edition of City Arts.

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