ART Week

Mark Citret at Shapiro Gallery
by Christine Brenneman
September, 2001

Much like fairy tales or dreams, the photographs of Mark Citret thrust us into a world at once familiar and alien, beautiful but undeniably strange. He captures seemingly ordinary objects or scenes such as a row of trees, a chain link fence or a doorway, but his diffuse, atmospheric light and conspicuous lack of people give the works a mysterious aura. It’s as if the world has been abandoned and all that’s left are quiet, isolated places.

These studies in stillness might, under different circumstances, lack visual intensity. But Citret chooses to imbue his low-key landscapes with plenty of repeating patterns and stark lines, creating a desire to look further. Indeed, many of the twenty-one black and white prints on view at the Shapiro Gallery show gateways or portals that lead the eye through the composition. What lies beyond, only Citret knows, but speculating about it pulls viewers into his nebulous world.

In Cypress, Skyline Drive, for example, a tunnel-like row of trees in an orchard disappears into the background under a thick fog. Innumerable branches arch upwards and to the left, creating a tangled web of intertwined growth. The cypress trees nearest to us are dark and defined, but as they recede, they become ethereal and muted, nearly immaterial. The pathway that runs beneath these trees also drifts away, as if whoever happens upon this scene can enjoy being momentarily without sure footing, delightfully ungrounded and swept into Citret’s never-never land. In the tone of the work, there’s a quality of magic coupled with ambivalence; like a childhood urge to explore something scary but ultimately thrilling.

Likewise, Antelope Canyon #3 continues this theme of pleasant disorientation. In the work, Citret points his camera into a tubular ice floe, capturing the brilliant contrast of bright light cascading down into darker crevices. The ice curls like ribbons or draped fabric in alternating patterns of light and shadow. Yet it’s hard to tell whether we are looking up or down. Is that sky above or water below? The image is so abstracted, and its context conveniently absent that the actual subject almost ceases to be important. Citret once again plays with perception, all the while using his medium of choice—gelatin silver prints with lots of toner—to emphasize the undulations and pleasing asymmetry of this element of the arctic landscape.