A regular Thursday night in Chelsea; more than a dozen galleries within a few blocks’ range are peddling their late-spring offerings. The recent warm spell has encouraged many of us to go hopping from gallery to gallery, perusing the open bars and bedecked white walls. Often — I speak for myself but I think many others would agree — partaking of this ritual consists fundamentally of a series of five to 15 minute visits, depending on the work, my mood and of course, the libations on offer.
Visiting one show at the recommendation of a friend, my progress was fortuitously slowed. To the rushed viewer, the works on display look at first like ash gray minimalist paintings. Fortunately, even the hasty onlooker catches a glimpse of something more out of the corner of her eye as she moves to the next work. The viewer stops, pauses, returns to the space she was about to leave. She reassesses what’s in front of her, sees it slowly become a pair of eyes, then a whole face, then the portrait of a woman who could easily be your grandmother’s best friend.
Jean Claude Wouters’ photographic portraits (employing no digital techniques) create the feeling of a ghost appearing out of the paper. In most of the portraits, the subject looks right back at the viewer, something that can only be perceived after time spent in front of the work. Some works are nudes, and the viewer may stare for a few minutes and then blush, realizing what part of the body they have been in front of for so long. The slowness of the works, as the eye adjusts to the minute gradations in white and gray, offers a depth rarely found in contemporary photographs. The result is haunting, beautiful, and eerie.
Digital reproduction of the works can be viewed at www.arielmeyerowitzgallery.com, but in this case more than others, seeing them in person in essential.
Nicole Rose Bouchard
Jean Claude Wouters
Portraits and Nudes ~ Spirits
Until June 18
Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery
120 Eleventh Avenue, 2nd Floor