Arthur Bruso has captured, in the photographs of Penumbra, that particular moment when we enter a dark room and strain to see. The images are almost completely black. A sense of place is occasionally suggested with a classical sculpture that seems to glow, or a clerestory revealed with a spot of light. The darkness feels solitary, populated only by an occasional marble figure. If anyone were to appear it would be a shock—unexpected in the moment you’re still gaining your bearings.
Once we’ve added up the hints, we can ascertain that the places visited here are the streets and cathedrals of Rome. Absent, other than the details, is sentimentality. When confronted with the everyday marvels of Rome it’s easy to work purely in service of the romance of the place. To either focus on its grandeur or charm. When a subject has been photographed so relentlessly it’s a challenge not to fall prey to conventions. Bruso reignites the possibility that there are still discoveries to make.
The images sometimes appear haphazard, as if we’re glancing around trying to locate an identifiable detail. This quality gives immediacy to the works, they’re in the process of disclosure. The prints themselves are beautifully produced. The blacks have a matte charcoal-like richness. The texture complements the idea that we’re feeling our way along in these cool, silent, echoing spaces. —Raymond E. Mingst
A Few Questions for Arthur Bruso
REM: You have a vast catalogue of photographs. You’ve printed hundreds and hundreds of images— these images span almost your entire life. You even have the first images you took with the first camera you received at 6 years old. Something we’ve talked about is how all of these photos are in play in your art practice. For example, in any given show we may be looking at an image you took as a very young person or an image you may have taken just last week. Confounding documentary considerations, like time and place, is a constant in your work. With that, how would you say your imagery has evolved over time?
AB: I’ve gotten better at using a camera. I believe that each camera “sees” differently. I have become more adept at exploiting those differences and using them to advantage in my work. I have also become less and less interested in the figure – I still have figurative work in my backlog, but in my newer work, I find I am more drawn to the landscape or inanimate objects. When I was younger (in college until after graduate school) I had the notion that I would be a Photographer who would make a Difference and a lot of my work was social commentary. These days, I find I am more interested in more esoteric ideas.
REM: For me, looking through the many boxes of your prints and shaping a show is a fascinating process. Identifying a theme or unifying element, selecting particular works and then writing about it, I feel a sense of authorship. However, it’s a collaborative process. Can you speak to what the process is like for you?
AB: A photographer can amass a large body of work in a short time, even when they are like me and are constantly editing – I never print every frame of film I expose. The curator can help make sense of the boxes of prints. I have my own ideas of what I want, but a curator shapes an exhibition which needs a cohesiveness that I may not have in my date defined boxes. Collaborating can be interesting in that way because I get to see my work through outside eyes. It can be frustrating as well, when there is a reinterpretation of the work that was never intended, but in the end, it becomes a back and forth, give and take. The curators I work with only want to show my work in its best light and for that I need to trust them.
REM: While you often talk about the aspects of your photos that aren’t documentary — composition, anomalies of the process that appeal to you, etc. — is nostalgia ever activated for you? Do you think about the when and where and what was going on in your life at the time you took the photo? Does your personal biography ever influence how you use your catalogue of images?
AB: Nostalgia is often a part of the work. I can remember the circumstances and my motivations for taking my first photographs. The image itself is often a trigger for me, and much of my work is about my experiences in a conceptual way.
REM: Can you speak more about that? How your work is about your experiences in a conceptual way…
AB: I don’t consciously plan to document my experiences in my work, but when I review it after it is complete I often see the connection. If you read the essays in my photo books, you will find that the photographic series relate to events in my life. The work may not actually portray what I discuss in the essay, but the essence is there.
REM: I referred to your “catalogue of images”. Is that how you would refer to them? Also, you keep each image in a plastic sleeve and those are kept in grey, archival storage boxes. Do you have a catalogue system so you can find particular images?
AB: I would call it a body of work. The organization is an evolving thing. My negatives I am bringing under control – or at least I have a system for them. My prints are more haphazard right now, but I am working on that.
Arthur Bruso is an interdisciplinary artist. His work incorporates, variously, three dimensional construction, installation, photography, drawing and painting. He was born in Albany, New York and holds a MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his MFA, he moved to New York City and served as Exhibition Director for ArtGroup. His studio is currently located in Jersey City where he co-founded the exhibition venue Curious Matter. Bruso has been a teacher, curator, critic and lecturer, and exhibits widely.
Solo Exhibitions 2009 A Lesser Doxology, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2008 ÆTHER, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2007 Into the Magic Space, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2004 Association Sublimation, The Gallery-Studios, Jersey City, NJ 2000 Open Studio, The Gallery-Studios, Jersey City, NJ
Invitational Exhibitions 1999 Remembering, Responding, Renewing, Visions Gallery, Albany, NY Invitational Exhibition of Small Works, New Arts Program, Kutztown, PA 1998 Post PENNism, Meyerson Gallery, Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA Flights of Fancy, 24 Hours for Life Gallery, New York, NY
Group Exhibitions 2010 The Ecstatic, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2009 Nyktomorph, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ Poison, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ 2008 Between Worlds, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ Hocus Pocus, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ Soho Show-off, Penn Design New York Alumni Show, Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, NY 2007 Apparition, Curious Matter, Jersey City, NJ Minnie’s Message - Steroscopic Views, The Gallery Studios, Jersey City, NJ 2002 Fine Arts Alumni/ae Virtual Exhibition 2002, www.upenn.edu, University of Pennsylvania Hallowed Ground Fertile Ground, The Gallery-Studios, Jersey City, NJ 2001 Recent Work/Sketches & Plans (The Alchemist’s Garden), The Gallery-Studios, Jersey City, NJ Photography Exhibition, Howland Cultural Center, Beacon, NY, juried 2000 Altars and Other Sacred Sites, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, NY Universal Diversity 8 (ATE), Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, NY 1999 Universal Diversity 7: We Create, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, NY. curated by Devorah Sperver 1999 International Juried Show, New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts, Summit, NJ; curated by Lisa Dennison, Chief Curator/Deputy Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum The Landscape, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York, NY New Works by Members, New Century Artists, New York, NY
Lectures 2005 Mystical, Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NJ 1998 Life After Your MFA, Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, Slide presentations, ArtGroup, New York, NY
"Q&A with Managers of Curious Matter, a Downtown Jersey City Art Gallery," Jersey Journal, May 14, 2010 Who’s Who in American Art, 30th edition 2009 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Nyktomorph exhibition, aired 10/6/09 “Photography for the Heavens,” The Jersey City Reporter, Jersey City, NJ, 7/19/09 edition WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Poison, aired 4/22/09 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, The Line Holds, the Space Beckons, aired 2/13/09 2008 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Between Worlds, aired 10/16/08 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, ÆTHER, aired 7/3/08 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Hocus Pocus, aired 4/7/08 WMBC Nightly News, New Jersey, Work of the Penitent, aired 1/8/08 2007 “A Matter of Creativity,” Current, Jersey City, NJ, 6/21/07 edition 2005 New York Times New Jersey Edition, April 3, “Putting Down Roots in the City” Edition Who’s Who In America 2006 Edition Who’s Who in America 2004 Edition Who’s Who In America 1999 November Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA), Minneapolis, MN 1998 December Pen In Ink; “Alumni News,” Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA September Berkshire Art Association 1998 Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture catalog; The Berkshire Art Association, Pittsfield, MA 1996 Summer Ignite magazine 1995 April “David Wojnarowitz,”ArtGroup Newsletter June Vice Magazine. February “Hugh Steers”ArtGroup Newsletter
Bibliography Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E., The Ecstatic. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2010, exhibition catalog Bruso, A Structure of the Church. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter 2010, a monograph of photographic art work Bruso, A The Line Holds, the Space Beckons. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2009 a monograph of photographic art work Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E., Nyktomorph. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2009, exhibition catalog Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E. Poison. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, exhibition catalog Bruso, A Into the Magic Space. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2008 a monograph of photographic art work Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E. Between Worlds. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, exhibition catalog Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E. Hocus Pocus. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, exhibition catalog Bruso, A and Mingst, R. E. Apparition. Jersey City, NJ: Curious Matter, 2007 exhibition catalog
Research 2009 Venice, Italy to study Titian and Florence, Italy to study the wax models in La Specola 2008 Amsterdam and Haarlem, Netherlands, to study cabinets of curiosity 2007 Paris, France, to study gothic sacred space in Chartres and Notre Dame 2006 Rome, Italy to study the Garden of Monsters, Bomarzo
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