SEARCH, 2003 - 2004
Search is a series of large-scale gelatin silver prints depicting individuals climbing trees. The viewer’s gaze is turned upward toward the merging of bodies and trees. This series metaphorically addresses the tension and
juxtaposition between human aspiration, or reaching, and the impulse toward flight or escape and its inherent futility.
All images Gelatin Silver Prints from Infrared Film, Edition of 6.
2004 SEARCH Marvelli Gallery, New York, NY (solo exhibition)
2004 ANDREA FRANK PINTA arte contemporanea, Genova, Italy (solo exhibition)
by Mary Hrbacek
Frank's new series of large scale black and white photographs of trees
presents an expansive vision of nature, linked to human endeavors, that
emphasizes both spiritual and physical regeneration. From a vantage-point
on the ground she focuses on the upper regions of trees, where towering
tree tops, tree climbers and open space converge far above the earth.
The idea is that somewhere up there in the tops of trees, there's a
spiritual place that is above the day-to-day concerns of life.
Revered by ancient Northern and Central European tribes, the forest,
a natural cathedral, serves as a sanctuary and refuge for us that is
far removed from the complexities of social interactions. These photographs
evoke a yearning for freedom, for a sense of oneness with nature. Frank
captures the ecstatic aspect of natural settings that bring the viewer
in touch with this yearning. The focus of these images is the tree as
such; the people climbing them take on a supporting role in quiet drama.
Frank makes use of the contre-plongee photographic technique used by
Bauhaus photographers, who shot tall buildings. Like them, she captures
her tall subjects from far below, from a viewpoint where the trees and
sky activate each other to produce a complete, unified visual statement.
Using infra-red film, Frank employs closely related tones that create
a subtly luminous, other-worldly quality of twilight that mirrors the
transition between day and evening. The small, partially visible, climbing
figures in the trees merge with the tree tones, implying the symbiotic
quality of their relationship. In the activity of tree-climbing, people
experience a sense of wonder that nurtures their need for both fantasy
and sensory stimulation derived from physical exertion. They express
their independence by escaping the tedium of conventional routine activities.
In Search #2, Frank captures a severely foreshortened image of a dark,
double tree trunk that provides a niche for a tree climber. In this
format, all the inter-twining spaces are activated with either branches
or contrasting silvery white and gray tree trunks. The variety within
the elements that range from small to large, or light to dark, produces
a dynamism and plasticity that opens up the picture plane to express
air and space. On the top right format, a tangle of various shades of
gray, white and dark branches interact with splashes and spots that
are in fact poetically interpreted canopies of leaves.
In another photograph, Search #4, a diagonal tree trunk extends to both
left and right, revealing the shadow of a figure barely visible behind
a central branch. The sky, marked by innumerable white twigs that proliferate
in a profusion of vein-like networks, evokes an imaginative vision of
transformation. The provocative picture is linked to fantasies of boundless
freedom and euphoria that often originate in dream imagery. In Search
# 6, the white space behind two powerful, twin tree trunks contrasts
dramatically with the dark tree branches. This creates intricate airy
veils of interlocking and overlapping branch forms. The highly charged
emotional expression is informed by touches of dappled gray leaves that
linger on the edges of the frame, adding subtle variations in the diverse
and strongly contrasting composition.
These photographs are conceptually most effective when both the figure
and the tree subtly merge to create unexpected dramatic metaphors for
human growth phases. The qualities of nostalgia, euphoria and brooding
that pervade these images probably originate in dreams, with psychological
links to a mythic, collective unconscious. In our quest for meaning
in the lives we live, we often strive to rise to higher levels of growth,
understanding and maturity. These works are, in effect, visual metaphors
for our human efforts to reach a higher ground.
From Andrea Frank SEARCH, works 1998 - 2005, Aracne Editrice, 2010, Rome, Italy
Originally published in M-The New York Art World, Summer 2004, New York City