Colin McRae, “Silence” at McLoughlin Gallery

by Admin on 08/09/2012

Photographer Colin McRae returns to McLoughlin Gallery after his previous exhibition in October 2011 of the San Francisco Bay tidelands. In this series of new work which comprises his gallery-wide solo exhibition Silence, McRae explores the High Sierra winterscapes through a variety of contrasting textures and abstractions. His medium- and large-scale black and white photography leans to the brink of abstraction, isolating features to the point it could be hard to tell what they are, if not for its definitive glacial formations. In some ways departing from his tidelands photograph composition, McRae employs in certain works a short depth of field, examining micro-landscapes within the larger hills and mountains.

McRae’s brilliant use of contrasting curves and patterns create meaningful textures that deepen the photograph’s reading. His stark use of black and white tonal contrasts highlights the textural detail. The curves, not only caused by wind erosion but also within the landscape itself as seen in the above photograph, convey an eloquent sense of movement. The multiple patterns and textures found in just one of McRae’s photographs evinces the seriousness with which he takes on this subject, searching for organic, live patterns in the barren snow fields; a daunting task for any photographer. Particularly intriguing is his interest in aquatic textures. McRae examines how snow, ice and tiny pools may have disparate textures and properties, although all are elements of water.

Whereas the use of black and white photography may aid in McRae’s interest in exposing the multiple textures and patterns of the snow and its surroundings, he then must also tackle the more difficult qualities of black and white chiaroscuro. In paintings, this can be accomplished by simple tonal contrasts to suggest volume and modelling of subjects, but in photography, particularly black and white, chiaroscuro is found only in more highly-developed photographic processes because it leaves no room for error. In McRae’s images, pure white is starkly juxtaposed with severe, pure blacks, creating an intense tonal shift. Shadows of gray on pure white snow, and his use of atmospheric color technique in wide shots of the Sierra focus on the sublimity of nature that draws viewers in for a moment of meaningful, silent meditation.

Colin McRae, “Silence” will be at McLoughlin Gallery through September 1.