-T. J. Carlin
Time Out New York / Issue 677 : Sep 19–25, 2008
Review by T.J. Carlin
Demetrius Oliver, Observatory
D’Amelio Terras, through Sept 27
If epistemology were a visual rather than a philosophical study, it might take the form of Demetrius Oliver’s photographs. In his show, careful looking is balanced with a persistent consideration of the act of observation itself in a series of works that, through their subject matter, touch upon everything from the history of still life to self-portraiture.
Excepting an animated short and a slide show, the majority of the pieces are square, mounted prints taken with a fish-eye lens. The method is uniquely appropriate here, serving as a literal and metaphorical way of uniting myriad subjects, all of which relate to ways of seeing, whether through a telescope, a camera or the painstaking process of observational painting.
There are two main series: “Firmament” consists of interiors, while in “Ember,” lightbulbs hovering in darkness have those same interiors projected onto them. In the particularly striking Firmament #26, the artist bends over a stone fireplace with a poker, tending a pile of electric lamps.
A camera looms on a tripod between this scene and the viewer, as if to remind us of the limits of this particular reality. The photos are digitally altered and sometimes look as if they have been subject to years of water damage. The end result is a painterly surface hearkening to the sumptuous tones and subtle light of Chardin.
Oliver’s use of light and the camera as both medium and subject underscores the self-reflexivity in his oeuvre. The strength of these pieces is that they both show and tell, and are fulfilling both conceptually and aesthetically.
Also, — Demetrius Oliver reviewed in the New York Times (Sep 08)