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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

James Casebere: Selected works 1995 – 2005

Sometimes it works out better to get to the event on time and have the place to yourself. James Casebere at Sean Kelley Gallery was one of those times. Casebere's process is to make miniature buildings and then photograph them with minimal post-production work. This exhibit focused on the interiors of these buildings, corridors, staircases, hallways, and flooded houses. Walking down the stairs I could hear only the echo of my footsteps until I ended up in the basement, a high-ceilinged, simple, white-walled room, alone. This intimate experience somehow gave the space an air of sanctity. I felt the need to speak in a whisper as I looked at the corridor of an abbey.

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The flooded buildings were interesting, especially when one remembers the process. The water is real, obviously, as is the lighting; the building is both real, but not. The building looks more and more fabricated the farther away from the light source it is; the imperfections and brush strokes become apparent in the shadows when the viewer's eye was not distracted by shimmering water.

The other works, there were 8 in total, showed corridors or hallways, and that is what made the place sacrosanct. An impressive great hall, modeled after those in Britain or France in the 16th century. A jail cell, one bunk down, was a replica of those in any US prison, and the dark tones with blue light captured an idea of unjust imprisonment.

 

When other people came into the gallery and began remarking on the works, I left. The shift in mood happened slowly. A few couples taking in hushed tones, until finally the room was engaged in a discussion of the lighting and the method of the artist.

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Photos by Tanya Kiseleva

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