Advertisement

Taking viewers into the `spirits' of an era

September 07, 2006|Susan Carpenter

"IMMATERIAL World" is the name of a new art exhibit exploring the intersection of photography and the supernatural, but "Duped" would have been equally appropriate. Looking at the late 19th and early 20th century portraits of humans sitting with the supposed ghosts of deceased friends and family members, it's hard to believe people were ever so gullible. Apocryphal as they seem today, "spirit photographs" were a bona-fide craze a century ago, thanks to the era's cultural craze for mediums and seances, coupled with emerging technologies such as X-rays.

"Immaterial World," opening today at the Stephen Cohen Gallery, features 45 spirit photos from turn-of-the-century artists John Beattie, Frederick Hudson and William Mumler. Mumler, an East Coast photographer, is credited with fueling the belief that communication with the dead was possible. Among the works on display is his portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln sitting with the supposed spirit of her husband, President Lincoln.

"The images take a number of different forms, but since exposures were long and the medium was young then, the older pieces are sort of stiffly done," said gallery director and curator Beverly Feldman. "But they're really of the time, and they're kind of wonderful."

By the mid-20th century, photographers expanded on the idea of capturing the unseen. Rounding out "Immaterial World" are numerous pictures attempting to document thoughts, dreams and emotions on film, as well as contemporary pieces from artists whose work relates to the period pieces "in an interesting and fun way," Feldman said. That includes L.A. artist Stephen Berkman's Looking Glass, which the gallery bills as "the world's first transparent camera obscura."

"Immaterial World," Stephen Cohen Gallery, 7358 Beverly Blvd., L.A. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays. Ends Nov. 4. (323) 937-5525, www.stephencohengallery.com.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|