Abstract appeal

In both sets of photographs currently on display at the Mudhouse, Charles Winkler shows little interest in the documentary side of photography. It’s photography’s abstract possibilities that catch his attention. Winkler doesn’t distort or alter his images with lenses, color foils, or any number of techniques at the photographer’s disposal. He depends instead on the abstracting properties possible with tight framing and textured, flat surfaces.
The first of the two series, “Harbinger,” is the less successful. In this series, Winkler’s pictures locate patterns of light on cracked asphalt and mottled blacktop. The background doesn’t seem to be the point, however; Winkler’s photographs aren’t particularly focused on the patterns in the asphalt or blacktop, and the prints really don’t emphasize them in any way. 
The focus of these images is obviously the patterns of light, which look a little too composed to be incidental. There isn’t a lot of life to these photographs, as Winkler adds little to compensate for his deliberately flat surfaces. The only possible exception would be “Angakoq,” a photo of overlapping square patches of light– an image with a little more charm and visual verve than the rest. 
Winkler generates more interest with the second set, the “Vessel Series.” The name derives from Winkler’s subjects– evidently he’s literally photographing vessels of different kinds, but again, the photographer is interested in abstract shapes and colors. His vessels are photographed with such a tight frame that it’s not at all apparent what he’s shooting. 
In only a few photos does Winkler allow a hazy, rounded curve at the periphery– a hint at the object’s rounded surface. With “Vessel,” Winkler focuses on the scrapes and chips along the surface. In “Indigo I,” a rust-like scar bleeds white streaks along a powder blue/lavender surface which looks almost like sheet metal. The red here is almost too intense to appear natural and makes a nice contrast with the photo’s cool blues. “Indigo II,” with its cuts and scrapes like the face of a cut rock, isn’t bad either.

Charles Winkler’s “2 Series: Harbinger & Vessel,” recent photographs, hangs through June 3 at the Mudhouse. 213 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 984-6833

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