Eric Robinson and Antonio Martinez are two additional Chi-town outsiders exhibiting exciting and fresh work at Las Manos, too. Both young men base their operations in Saluki territory of Carbondale, IL and prove to be equally as talented and creative as Chicago-resident artists. Eric uses an antique photographic process called ambrotypes, which are one-of-a-kind images exposed onto 4x5 glass plates. The installation of his series called Leathermen show environmental portraits and close-ups of tools of sexual play that define his San Fransico subjects of interest. The aesthetic offered by the ambrotype process provides a new interpretation to the daring and shocking nature of leathermen and their sexual-deviant activities. More ever, Eric is able to present a quality of tenderness and everyday specialness not commonly attributed to such sexual "deviancy" by the mainstream audience. Eric will be a photographer to watch out for in the future in Chicago, for he plans to direct his camera away from San Francisco and towards Chi-town.
Lastly, Antonio Martinez returns to Las Manos Gallery with three new and budding bodies of work about amateur-level sports of which he writes, "when compared to the glitz and glamour of professional athletes, an amateur athlete exchanges big bruises for small praises". These images move beyond the typical sports photography, instead they involve a remorseful quality that calls into attention the violence, valor, and pursuit of feeling powerful for male athletes performing feats of madness as either a cagefighter, bodybuilder, or rodeo rider. His first body of work called "How to Hug and Other Sublimations of Men" is a study of southern Illinois Cagefighters competing for honor and regaining feelings of powerfulness and self-worth in today's changing 21st century. The painterly use of color and abrasive surface treatment of his images moves away from the strict tradition of straight color photography, instead he is able to evoke a high degree of expressionism. His images of exquisite violence calls attention to the admirable and deplorable sport of cagefighting as a modern ritual and site where two men, through violence, compassion and respect, experience feelings of sublimation.
"Bending Cages" is his sequel to the "Near the Egress" project. If you missed Near the Egress, then you should visit vimeo.com and search for it. Although the stop-motion tintype video of "Bending Cages" is still in production, Antonio continues to combine digital and alternative photographic processes to create slick, glossy images of muscle men on aluminum. These men of muscle appear strong but Antonio is able to express another interpretation such as the haunting feeling of loss and entropy. Accompanying his larger float-mounted aluminum prints are smaller modern tintypes of muscle men which were used to construct the larger version, and, ultimately, will be used in his next stop-motion video.
Antonio's Faith Into Madness is a short experimental stop-motion video, completed entirely with Polaroid emulsion lifts which shows a bronco and cowboy romping into a loop of madness. The sound design is exquisite and complements the erratic movements of the subject and the fluttering film emulsion. This month, Faith into Madness is being featured on Portland-based Blue Mitchell's popular blog platestopixles.com.
Overall, "Variations-a Photography Exhibition" at Las Manos Gallery is a pleasant surprise, with enough scope and range in style and subject matter for everyone to enjoy. I encourage everyone to check out this exhibit before it snows another 20 inches.