Art

Mammoth Bales (2004)
photo: Courtesy Kerrigan Campbell
Mammoth Bales (2004)

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John Coffer
Kerrigan Campbell
317 East 9th Street
Through May 30

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Like John Dugdale and McDermott & McGough, John Coffer lives largely in the 19th century, without electricity, central heating, or modern plumbing, and works exclusively in that period's long-outmoded photographic processes. In the course of a career that has been consistently hands-on, Coffer has made tintype images of the rough-hewn log cabin he built on his farm in upstate New York, the logs he cut, the chains he forged, the livestock he raised, and the vegetables he grew. Although the resulting work has a certain rustic romanticism and is likely to appeal to people with a hankering for old-fashioned, back-to-the-land Americana, Coffer is no nostalgist. Rather he seems to be using an appropriately antique method to document a world and a life utterly displaced in time. Any pictorialist haze that seeps into his pictures of a pine forest, hay bales, and a path through the snowy woods is quickly dissipated by Coffer's realist rigor. The tintypes themselves are remarkable objects, and not just because many of them are unusually large. Burnished, mottled, and rich with the history of their manufacture, they make even the most massive modern prints look somehow flimsy and unreliable.

 
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