Figures framing essence 

Every so often, art collector and dealer Deborah Ronnen and her assistant Jen Burger pull together a showcase of work to exhibit at Deborah Ronnen Fine Art. Ronnen is dedicated to introducing Rochester audiences -- and collectors -- to work by artists they might not otherwise encounter. The current show on view, "Body and Soul," is a smart grouping of prints and photographs that explore the physical, emotional, and spiritual terrains that humans occupy.

"Each of the pieces are expressions of where body and soul meet," Ronnen says.

Ronnen and Burger began building the show from a work by Hank Willis Thomas, titled "Your Skin Has the Power to Protect You." The photo depicts a sort of tessellation of human legs, each bent at the knee and forming a mountaintop shape within the greater wall of flesh. The wave of variation in skin tone within the pattern is pleasing to the eye, almost mesmerizing. But as with much of Thomas's work, meaning reaches beyond skin-deep, and alludes to discussions of race. The title not only acknowledges the fact that our fragile hides are crucial in keeping germs out, it also refers the role that the degree of pigmentation plays in protecting the owner.

"My Ghost," by Adam Fuss, is a large-scale photogram of a christening gown, bereft of a body. The gown itself is like a specter, floating ephemerally in a dark field. Through the haunting suggestion of the form, the work silently speaks of the line between the known and the unknowable.

"His entire oeuvre is devoted to questions of life and death," Ronnen says.

Lovely and unsettling, "My Ghost" spotlights the care that went into the creation of the lacey garment, and into the fragile little life that is not present.

Christopher Bucklow's poignant work "Guest [P.S.] 3:03 p.m., 18th November, 1995" is of a glittering human silhouette against a glowing blue sky. This simple yet engaging image whispers quite a profound concept. Bucklow's prints of his "Guest" series were created through a photographic method of his own design. He captures his models using a large crate-sized pinhole camera with more than 25,000 holes, resulting in a constellation of light forming a human apparition. So what we see are 25,000 tiny suns -- or days -- contained within each figure. This is the equivalent of the approximately seventy solar years each human being is a guest on this planet.

Far more concrete is the form presented in Michal RonnenSafdie's subtle "BTR 6 (Trees)," from a series of photographs of trees that have been cropped and reoriented. Here, the gentle curves of the trunk are flipped upside down so that the branches stretch downward, as though they are slender legs covered in scarred skin. A sinewy branch to the right suggests an arm caught in an elegant gesture.

Four of Angelika Krinzinger's "Untitled" images from her "Body Details" series present visceral, intense glimpses of human flesh on flesh. The tiny photos -- 3.5 inches by 4.5 inches each -- are ambiguous and seductive, pairing hands and lips with other bits.

"They're meant to be provocative, and I think she's talking about androgyny, too," Ronnen says. The viewer can guess at gender based on hints at hair or shapely details, but the truth is teasingly unclear.

Krinzinger's spotlight on the vivid, alive hues of flesh and her use of such a small scale are magnetic, pulling the viewer into intimate proximity with the anonymous subjects.

Two photos by Nicholas Nixon also deal in proximity and intimacy, but here, between the photographer and his wife. In each image, both titled "Bebe and I, Brookline," a deep communion between the older couple, imperfections and all, is revealed in cropped glimpses and grayscale. One image is framed above and below by Nixon's arms, which wrap firmly about Bebe's naked torso. The other is a close crop of their faces, with eyes locked together in a different sort of embrace. This vision of unbreakable intimacy, no doubt hard-earned over time, is inspiring in its implied solidarity.

In her large scale photo, "Diorlywood," Marilyn Minter contrasts rhinestones with grime and urges a bit of discomfort from her audience. The larger-than-life photo depicts the back of a woman's rhinestone-encrusted Dior shoe, her heel balanced on a tilted, wet surface, and her flesh smudged in grease and dirty.

The series is about "photographing the underbelly of life for certain women," Ronnen says. Her subjects' ornaments are no shield against the world. By juxtaposing filth with glamor in her photos and paintings, Minter asks the viewer to consider the gritty and vulnerable side of that alluring world of women-as-products.

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