James Casebere: La Alberca, 2005/2006

Photo: courtesy Goetz Collection 

Those blessed structures plot and rhyme-
why are they no help to me now
i want to make
something imagined not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter's vision is not a lens 
it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything i write
With the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot 
lurid rapid garish grouped 
heightened from life 
yet paralyzed by fact.
All's misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun's illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts.
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

robert Lowell

The painter's vision is not a lens except, in the case of James Casebere, when it is. At the same time, it is 
relatively easy to say that his images are heightened from life/yet paralysed by fact. His images trounce the real, they are contaminated by fiction. Is it photo, is it painting? The illumination characteristic of his work is at its most ambiguous in La Alberca. Here, the combination of the abstract, shallow reflective pool of water melts all solidity, returning the physical to its liquid state. The source of illumination is not clear - we are contained in the gestural space.

Flooded Hallway 1999 - Casebere

Discussing La Alberca in terms of Lowell's Epilogue points to a perceived correlation between Vermeer and Casebere. It is notable that Vermeer's work nearly always contains a window - an explicit announcement of the how and why light enters. Casebere, conversely, is not concerned with the entry of light, but with the what the illumination allows. However, this distinction is not as clear as it might appear. Both artists are obsessed with how light returns the eye to reality - both artists tremble to caress the light. For Vermeer, painting the incredibly everyday Milkmaid was a subject of both stark reality and highly institutionalised myth. His illumination works to bring together these two isolated views. For Casebere the same is true - light folds together the reality of space and the myth that physical material alone is form giving.

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