Artist’s Images Invite Audience to Re-imagine Effects of Conflict

WINSTON-SALEM – Curtis Mann’s photography transports you to memories of news reports from international war zones. Yet, when you study the images, you find a new mystifying narrative opens up.

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) will be opening a new photography exhibition Curtis Mann: Modifications on June 28.

The show will be on view until September 16, 2012. Admission to SECCA, located at 750 Marguerite Drive, is free. SECCA is open Tuesday through Sunday. Check for exact hours. SECCA is an affiliate of the N.C. Museum of Art, within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

For the series Modifications, Mann appropriates and refashions anonymous snapshots that were taken in countries like Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq — places where violent conflicts are deeply rooted and often seem impossible to resolve.

After collecting photographs from photo-sharing Web sites, estate sales, and online auctions, Mann enlarges them and paints certain parts of the photographs with a clear varnish. When he submerges these prints in a bleach solution, the varnished areas resist the bleach while the untreated portions of the image are washed away. As a result, large sections of each photograph are replaced by a bright white void, while at its edges gradients of red and yellow bear faint traces of the original image.

The varnished areas depict clusters of people, fragments of buildings, or solitary trees, fully visible but isolated in these otherworldly landscapes. These modifications accentuate particular details in the original photographs, hinting at their potential significance.

As he submits the found images to substantial physical alterations, Mann effectively filters them through a new visual vocabulary, opening them up for himself — and for viewers — to engage in a new search for meaning.

Mann says, “I question what I’ve learned about these places, and I realize I usually have to erase most of that knowledge and begin again — more open-minded, more curious, and more hopeful than before.”

Steven Matijcio, curator of contemporary art for SECCA, says, “The ensuing images linger like ghosts – haunting in both memory and suggestion.”

One of Mann’s hopes for this series on view at SECCA is to invite new considerations of misunderstood and maligned people and places, but just as importantly, he guides his audience towards a tangible engagement with the photographic image itself.

In addition to Curtis Mann: Modifications, SECCA has on view the award-winning exhibition paperless (closing September 16) and Light and Space: The Sculpture of Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová (closing August 5).