Brian Buckley at ClampArt

Brian Buckley at ClampArt
© Brian Buckley, “Thera, Santorini, Greece,” 2020. Wet photogram (Unique), 30 x 22 inches. Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City


Brian Buckley’s second solo show at the gallery presents more than a dozen framed images that pair cephalopodic forms with classical narratives and mythologies. These wet photograms are made by mixing solutions of light-sensitive chemicals and water-based paints and then placing objects on or near the prepared paper before exposing them to light. Due to their fluid quality, the images appear ghostly and watery—a quality most suitable for capturing images of creatures hailing from beneath the tides.

The octopi forms here are swirling, stretched, and streaming out like ribbons. Yet they appear like surrogates for the body as well. On one hand, their organic shapes might suggest entrails, but on the other, as the artist states in a video made in advance of the show, “…as humans, we believe we came from the water, we are water.” There is a sense of the image extending into the viewer’s realm of experience, of floating in the sea surrounding the subject, much in the same way that one might imagine the work being created.

As someone who spends time at sea (the artist is described in support materials as a sailor), nautical themes appear natural to Buckley. Oceanic tropes are present not only in the creatures he depicts but also in works like Thera, Santorini, Greece with references to the Aegean island once destroyed by a volcanic explosion around 1600 B.C. It’s with this connotation of ancient tragedy that Buckley’s work receives consideration in another light.

Other works in the show referencing Aphrodite and the Count Ugolino of Pisa reveal sparks of inspiration coming from further myths and far-off places. These timeless stories, especially the tale of Ugolino and his sons’ somber fate evoke a mood surrounding the works that remain with the viewer. This, combined with the alchemy of the works’ material making, plus the creatures’ shadows, heighten a sense that could only be described as haunting. Yet as Buckley states, “the work is open to any interpretation. It asks for openness to the possibilities these images generate.”

January 7 – February 20, 2021