Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Blurred Vision

Pondering the images of Sean M. Aucutt


Photography comes alive in the seven digital prints by contemporary photographer Sean M. Aucutt currently on display at the Fulton Street Theater. The pent-up energy lurking in these images is no easy feat considering they're all blurred close-ups of inanimate objects.

One presents a metal "something" composed in shades of vermillion and teal. The photographed object is cropped and blurred just beyond recognition, but so compelling you'll find yourself desperate to make sense of it. Fiery vermilion rods end in three rectangular shapes and are balanced at a precarious forty-five degree angle on a cylindrical base. The diagonal infuses the piece with kinetic vigor.

After staring at it for some time, and soliciting help from the theater staff, I drew a blank. Was it a musical instrument? A piece of old machinery? My mind finally settled, irrationally, on duck feet. Shadows under the "foot" in the top right corner suggest movement up and forward. These duck feet want to dance.

Four hangs directly across from two, and features a larger-than-life tin can wrapped with a label swirling in a psychedelic blur of reds, oranges and greens. Aucutt's skillful composition foregrounds a section of lid bustling with shadowy circular ribbing. Doubling as motion lines, the impressions conjure a rolling can of mixed vegetables looking to wreak havoc. An ellipse of bounced flash explodes just right of center and competes for attention with an area of absolute white near the top left edge. The arrangement mercilessly ping pongs your eye over and through the hallucinogenic label.

Two and three opt for grayer palates spiced with red and orange accents, respectively. Two suggests a retreating car or the face of a boom box, but identifying the object proves far less stimulating than giving yourself over to Aucutt's handling of line and color. His design speeds you along the diagonals and languorously loops you around the curves, then stops you dead at the red circle ... until you slide down the dark diagonal at its bottom and start over again.

Like the other prints in the series, three measures approximately 22 by 33-and-a-half inches and is mounted on a distracting wood-grained board. It is the least successful of the large-scale images. It shows a container of some sort, perhaps an empty oven pan or sardine tin, and is primarily composed of grays. A streak of orange glows above the rim of the pan and slips off the right edge of the picture. The composition offers no way back in, and fails to arouse the heart, mind or retina.

Unfortunately, the smaller-scale five, six and seven showcase the same pan and suffer from many of the same limitations as the larger version. They do, however, benefit from being hung as a series. The glowing orange rims collectively trace a sine curve that undulates with warmth.

Aucutt's exploration of movement in this untitled exhibition complement the body of work he's created as principal photographer for Balance Dance Company, and his images of the young performers are reproduced on calendars and brochures at Fulton Street Theater. Perhaps those vermillion duck feet really do want to dance.

Aucutt's show runs through the end of March at the Fulton Street Theater, 854 Fulton St., 331-9224.

Rose Reifsnyder has a master's degree in critical art theory, with an emphasis in contemporary photography, from the University of Southern California.