review

Jessica M. Kaufman
Panopticon

Albany Times Union - Preview - May 12, 2011
by Tim Kane


Haunting Beauty

As if time were eating away memory, small specks, like freckles on weathered skin, permeate Jessica Kaufman's misty black-and-white landscapes. Trees, shrubs and hints of sky dissolve into almost nothing.

At first, the Brooklyn artist's sizable compositions convey no specific location in the solo exhibition "Panopticon" at Galerie BMG in Woodstock. One after another, the frames scroll by like shrouded visions from a dream or frayed scrapbooks. Spend enough time with the pictures and eventually they share their truth through adjoining words: the horror of the Holocaust.

Five years ago, Kaufman spent months photographing the grounds of concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Austria that have all but vanished due to decay. Raised in an Orthodox household, Kaufman grew up with the Holocaust as a reminder of how fragile political freedoms can be, and learned very early "never to forget." Yet, at another level, she wasn't connected. None of her family was killed, or survived the camps. As a photographer with a sense of detachment from a major event in her cultural background, Kaufman spent months taking pictures of the "vacant" spaces left behind by history. What's so interesting about the images of the well-documented Holocaust is their freshness and how they reintroduce you to the familiar subject matter.

This is largely done through process. Kaufman uses a 4-by-5-inch Polaroid camera, and by altering its developing process, she creates a "crystallization" effect that dots the images to suggest time-worn places increasingly lost in our consciousness.