John Szabo – A Photographer Explores the Road Less Traveled
Marion Meyer Contemporary Art
April 7 – May 29, 2011
By Roberta Carasso
John Szabo is an artist who perseveres until he finds the truth of what he seeks. This dedication can be seen in all his art, but particularly in his photography.
Learning photography, based on the demanding photographic processes of a darkroom, young Szabo was invigorated by experimentation and investigating. Nothing was left out; nothing was overused; and the work never became a gimmick.
The mature artist has applied these honed skills to abstract painting, digital fine art photography, and filmmaking. Szabo’s film, Creativity Explored, about an art school in San Francisco for artists with disabilities, premiered on PBS. The artist’s vigorous search to push his photographic knowledge and capture untold stories of the human condition can be seen in four of his recent series – The Unseen LA, Trash Recycled, Waves, and Yosemite & Kings Canyon.
The Unseen LA required that Szabo check out the seedier parts of the city, the parts where people work and even live, but which are not publicized. Seeing these photographs is like driving through the back alleys of the city, passing a police car, rubbish, old buildings, signage that has completely peeled off, or signage that remain with pride. There are scenes of railroad cars at rest, bright Blue and Yellow of the Santa Fe against grays of industrial buildings; and a vibrantly colored large carňitas and taco stand.
Trash Recycled is part of the LA Series. It echoes Szabo’s search for the hidden parts of the city. At the recycling center Szabo creates some of his best photography.
A recycled center is like a government agency with rules and regulations. Although it handles plain old garbage, the recycling center in East Los Angles, where Szabo chose to photograph, was a difficult place to get in and film. Szabo had been attracted to the sculptural qualities of compressed trash, the melding together of color, texture, and form piled high like ancient stile. Each part of an anonymous stack has a history that has outgrown its usefulness. The recycling center is like a cemetery of materials whose lives have ceased.
Applying his profound sense of life and death to what others might disregard, Szabo sees trash as a metaphor for all life, whether human or otherwise. In this series, he creates intimate black, to gray, to white patterns that, despite being detritus, form elegant relationships of light and shadows, horizontals and verticals, random and stray glittering shapes created through a sensitive and experienced eye and skills that can render various abstract configurations others might miss, especially when visiting a recycling center.
In his recent transition from film to digital photography Szabo is careful not to overuse digital editing software such as Lightroom, favoring to adhere to his long-honed ability to invest the time to compose a shot on location, and leverage mostly in-camera shutter speed and aperture settings as opposed to the gimmick that over-editing with computer software can become.
This explains why his contemporary images look as if they were not created by a click of a shutter, but by painstakingly adjusting old techniques to new technology.
Szabo’s series titled Waves shares an abstract quality with his stacks of compressed recycled trash. In fact, they exemplify Szabo’s visual signature as he finds elegance in the obvious and most common objects and phenomena. Thus his portraits of surf convey the rhythmical pull on the ocean and the harmonious beat of one wave after another.
For his series Yosemite & Kings Canyon as might be expected, Szabo is interested in what appears off the beaten path. Visiting Yosemite and Kings Canyon, he avoided most tourist spots looking for those rare photographic moments that require a hike into a lesser known area. Because national parks are more verdant with an endless tapestry of foliage, rocks, trees, and animals, Szabo uses other photographic techniques, particularly an effect called Tilt Shift Photography with a very narrow line of focus and depth of field with everything above and below that line out of focus.
Above all else Szabo’s photographic images offer attention to detail and unique artistry.
Szabo’s figurative abstract photographs transcend any one technique; his composition, eye, and aesthetic elements make each photo recognizable as a Szabo print.
Roberta Carasso is an art critic who writes for some of the nation’s leading art publications. She recieved her Ph.D. from the Art Department of New York Universityand is a member of the esteemed International Association of Art Critics (www.aica-int.org). Roberta’s webpage is: www.carasso.com/roberta.
John Szabo’s photography, paintings, artist statement, biography and contact information can be viewed at www.szabofinearts.com.
Marion Meyer Contemporary Art is one of the West Coast’s leading galleries of contemporary art (www.marionmeyergallery.com).