review

Vincent Serbin Exhibition
Raw Objects Appear Life Size

Woodstock Times -April 8, 2010
Smart Art by Paul Smart


An Artist in his Prime

To see the simple art of photograms in Vincent Serbin's new work, opening in an exhibition entitled Raw Objects Appear Life Size, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, April 10 at Galerie BMG on Tannery Brook Road, is not altogether easy. For one, there's the immensity of the Woodstock artist's rich sense of style, evident before in his renowned but unique negative collage process, which brought nudes together with landscape and the ephemeral elements of memory in a dreamlike fashion. Then there's the questions that arise as to how Serbin's gotten such effects now, using a totally new technique.

Ah, the mastery of true artists...

"I have composed these images with a sense of free association and in a style that is akin to Art Brut, that is 'art without intellectual concerns' or 'raw art'," Serbin has said of the series, which kicks off a new Galerie BMG season after a short break. "The very nature of arranging objects by hand under the dim, amber glow of the darkroom safe lights can often yield surprising results that are truly one of a kind."

It's taken me years to come around to Serbin. At first I saw only the cliches he's long played off in his art...the nude women, the still life elements, the rich tones, and what I believed was an overall surrealist sensibility. But then his intricate craftsmanship, openness to chance, concentrated dedication, and complex narrative skills started to come into view. Along with the beauty of all he made. And as a result, his uniqueness.

We have tried to get together to talk about what he does more deeply. And keep saying how we will, eventually...

Serbin describes what he's now doing as a simple process by which he places objects on a sheet of photo paper in the darkroom and exposes them to light. He then develops the paper with standard darkroom processes. In addition, he sometimes spreads photo developer chemicals over just certain areas of the paper he's working on, producing a free form image. He has also utilized sepia, selenium and blue toners to add texture to his prints...and hand-painted some of the images with artist's oils, for an added sense of intimate detail.

Compositionally, he's started to work with photographic negatives and x-rays, resulting in what he describes as "an exploration of scale and positive/negative conversions."

He's a local treasure. This is a must-see show of an artist in his prime, moving from old to new formats with ease, carrying his personality with him, yet using that sense of style to go beyond himself into new, dreamlike ways of interpreting the world around us.++