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The Figure Illuminated:
Flor Garduño, Alvin Booth, Ralph Gibson


Dates: September 13 – November 15, 2008

Reception & Book signing: September 13th, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Etherton Gallery
135 S. Sixth Avenue
Tucson, Arizona 85701

Contact: (520) 624-7370 :: Daphne Srinivasan, Hannah Glasston, Terry Etherton


Etherton Gallery is pleased to present The Figure Illuminated featuring the photographs of Flor Garduño, Alvin Booth and Ralph Gibson. The Figure Illuminated presents three reflections on the mysteries and wonders of the nude, featuring the monumental photographs of Flor Garduño’s sensuous women seen through the veil of magic realism; the erotically charged, abstracted bodies in Alvin Booth’s work, and Ralph Gibson’s deceptively simple, open-ended photographs that highlight tension, rhythm and vision. The exhibition opens on Saturday, September 13th with a reception, from 7:00 to10:00 pm.  Etherton Gallery is located at 135 S. 6th Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85701. Regular business hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11am – 5pm and Thursday 11am-7pm. For more information please contact the gallery at (520) 624-7370 or info@ethertongallery.com.

The earliest nudes originated during Hellenistic Greece which saw the production of some of the most beautiful but challenging imagery produced in the canon of art history.  Following in this genre, Flor Garduño, Alvin Booth and Ralph Gibson present photographs that are beautiful as well as provocative.  Garduño is best known for her book, Witnesses of Time (1992), which was translated into 5 languages and most recently, Silent Natures (2005). The photographer and critic Franz Roh has described the fusion of reality and fantasy as  a “calm admiration of the magic of being.” This melding is seen in many of Garduño’s images. In Edén, Suiza (2001) she represents women gently bathed in the glow of this magic realism. The photograph features two full figure nudes holding a giant plant frond between them. Garduño’s women are archetypes, ancient Venuses whose intimacy with nature is redolent of biological and Edenic fecundity. Indeed, Garduño herself has noted that many of the women who posed for her subsequently became pregnant. However, like Venus, Garduño’s women reveal their dual nature: symbols of fertility that co-exist harmoniously with a luminous sexuality. The monumentality of Garduño’s women makes them true goddesses, their sensuality revealed in her lustrous prints.

The Figure Illuminated presents a selection of photographs from Alvin Booth’s work, including Corpus (1999), Osmosis (2002) and Ova (2004).Booth’s concerns include, the history of photography, the photographic object, ideas about art and the hand-made, sexuality, fetish and creation – they all come together to produce this provocative body of work. He makes highly constructed photographic nudes that evoke the dualities of the corporeal and the abstract, pain and pleasure and image and object. Images such as Woman in Latex (n.d.) skirt the boundary between fashion and bondage. Booth’s model is covered in metallic paint and seemingly caught in a barrier composed of latex strips. Her graceful serpentine form pushes at the latex, her body stretched in a sexual tension highlighted by her binds. The outer edges of the image are uneven, reminding the viewer that just as the scene is created, so is the physical image. In Osmosis, Booth moved away from the visceral physicality of Corpus and created shadowy, fluid figures bathed in diffuse light that sometimes pushed at an imaginary membrane, enacting the title of the series. Booth continued this exploration in Ova, fashioning oval images of women’s torsos in dappled light, reducing the image to its basic cellular components: form, light and pattern. Aside from their thematic unity, Booth’s images are united in the way they are made – toned and distressed gelatin silver prints placed in hand-wrought metal frames. By the time they are finished, they are beautiful both as objects and photographs.  

During the 1970s photographer Ralph Gibson’s career  was established through books such as The Somnambulist (1970), Déjà-vu (1972) and Days at Sea (1974). After an attempt at straight photography in the tradition of Walker Evans and Robert Frank, Gibson found what he calls his “departure point,” or personal vision, when he discovered that in a number of unrelated photographs he had unconsciously emphasized hands. During this period Gibson began to develop his unique style creating deceptively simple, open-ended images. His work often highlighted a single geometric fragment or figural gesture, decontextualized or framed in surreal juxtapositions that resulted in provocative images. For example in MJ With Towel (1983), Gibson created a cropped image of a woman whose torso is highlighted against a shadowy background. Her face is obscured by a towel hanging just in front of her; only her tightly wavy hair, right ear and breasts are in view. The towel’s edge forms a dagger-like shadow that runs down the center of her chest. Gibson has taken a simple moment at the beach, and in what he calls “the moment of recognition,” transformed it into an ambiguous, erotic image. During the 1970s Gibson’s photography  overturned the received wisdom that  black and white photography was the true medium of reality, by producing high contrast, abstracted and scaled down, black and white images that made us question the certainty of “real.”

The Figure Illuminated represents the first time that Flor Garduño, Alvin Booth and Ralph Gibson have been shown together, and illustrates the beautiful and challenging results produced by three masters of the medium when confronted with the difficult aesthetic, cultural and technical issues associated with the genre of nude photography.  We hope you will join us at Etherton Gallery for the opening reception on Saturday, September 13th from 7:00 to10:00 pm.

Represented in Tucson by Etherton Gallery, the artists are available for interviews upon request.  Please contact the gallery at 520-624-7370 or email us at info@ethertongallery.com to schedule an interview or for more information about their work.


Tucson Weekly - Flesh & Light: Radiant nudes feature in an exhibit at the Etherton Gallery

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