New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 30 September 26 to October 2, 2012

Looking Up
Bruno Cals
Ed Barnas
Untitled 1 by Bruno Cals. Source:
Bruno Cals, "Untitled 1" 2011

The horizon is usually viewed off in the distance, the natural boundary between earth/sea and the sky. Traditional guidelines for composition suggest avoiding the placement of the horizon in the center and evenly splitting the frame. However, Brazilian photographer Bruno Cals has shifted his vantage point by ninety degrees. Instead of looking straight ahead, he looks up toward the sky, close to the façade of a building, bisecting the frame with its upper reaches. The result is a series of formal abstract color studies that are, at first glance, visual puzzles of the “what is it?” variety.

The prints hung on the wall at the 1500 Gallery are large in scale – nine are 32 x 48 in. and one is 62 x 93 in. Shot up close, the texture of the buildings material dominates the bottom half of the images with a generally featureless sky in the upper half. As one would expect, a stone façade comes across as a barren rocky landscape while modern buildings of manmade materials suggest sci-fi scenes (especially the light grids in Untitled 9 which reminded me of the film Tron). When executed with deep focus, the illusion is of an aerial view (though one of the images, Untitled 6, has a shallow focus which brings the viewer close to

Untitled 6 by Bruno Cals. Source:
Bruno Cals, "Untitled 6" 2011

In addition to the physical prints on display, an additional ten images from the series are shown on a large digital screen. Several of these digital images include surface features that rise above the horizon line, adding a bit more visual interest to the image. These are further supplemented by digital images of earlier photos from the series exhibited at the gallery in 2010. (Several of those early images were shot looking up through balconies, giving the impression of staring down a street or colonnade rather than the broad horizon of the current images.)

As formal designs, these images offer visual interest on an intellectual level, but are not fully engaging on an emotional level. Nonstandard angles of view and close-ups have been a part of the visual vocabulary since the 20’s (e.g., the work of Alexander Rodchenko, Albert Ranger-Patzsch and others from that period) and I rather enjoy their use. Nor does other work utilizing the bisected frame present a problem to me (e.g., Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lake Superior series shown last year at PaceMcGill). Perhaps it is the large size of these prints that puts me off; images of this size make me think more of wall decorations than photographs.

Bruno Cals
Curator: Boris Kossoy

1500 Gallery
511 W 25th St. 6th Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 255 2010

Wednesday, May 2 to
Friday, September 28, 2012
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11 to 6