by MADELEINE PECK WAGNER
Curating might be the subtlest of arts. It is often easy to overlook or even marginalize the work that goes into organizing, editing, and explaining a body of work. However, our city is lucky to have several thoughtful curators in the museums, and a growing number of those who are independent or gallery-affiliated.
Aaron Levi-Garvey is among the latter. A 2009 graduate of the University of North Florida, with dual majors in art history and studio art, Garvey has worked for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, been featured in the Highway Gallery Project, and is now the gallery director for Florida Mining Gallery.
In a brief conversation with him—in between the hecticness of Art Basel and travel preparations for the holidays—he talked about his goals for the current Florida Mining Gallery show, Manifest. “I really kind of approached this from an almost historical standpoint,” he says, citing the works of Dorthea Lange, Diane Arbus, and Jeff Widener. In Manifest, with the five artists selected, Levi-Garvey hopes to explore the range of process and production, as well as highlighting the human figure, architecture and the interaction between the two. It is, “an anthropological analysis of our social schema,” he comments.
It’s a show he has described as “his baby.” From the works of Emma Wilcox who is concerned with environmental justice, to the works of Chang Kyun Kim whose work also explores the built environment in a more metaphorical sensibility, Levi-Garvey’s position as a curator is exemplified. He wants to pose open-ended questions about media and process, while at the same time, giving Jacksonville an object-lesson in the short history of photography itself.
Because photography can be used as document and art object, is accessible to almost everyone, and now, with digital processing almost anything can be imagined and reimagined, Levi-Garvey has culled a wide range of practicing photographers. Of special note is Allen Frame, a 1974 graduate of Harvard, a practicing professor of photography at the school of Visual Arts, Pratt Institute, and a contributing editor at BOMB magazine. He works within the 35-millimeter framework, because, “it demands that the photographer be more deliberate.” His recent images have a seeming casualness to them that is belied by their very intimacy. It is as if through the lens of the camera he has transformed himself into a quiet recorder of quiet moments in lives, bringing to mind Emmet Gowin.
Frame’s older images (pre-2006) have a greater note of sexualization and voyeurism but somehow retain a bit of innocence and purity. Perhaps it is the black and white medium that enhances a sense of poetry rather than prurience.
His work is a good metaphor for the entire Manifest show. There is an elegance and wistfulness in much of the work shown. There is a focus on justice and beauty, and an interest in—though not overridingly so—sex, with a soupcon of humor. It is distilled and smart, making a good argument for Levi-Garvey’s emerging curatorial eye.
Manifest opens January 24, at Florida Mining Gallery, and is the kick-off event for PhotoJax. PhotoJax is an annual, Jacksonville-based festival that explores all aspects of the medium of photography and is dedicated to bringing together professionals, enthusiasts, collectors, galleries and museums, and those who are simply curious. It runs from January 24-26, 2013. For more information, visit photojax.org.