Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art at MCASB

Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art , Installation view at SITElab, SITE Santa Fe, NM, October 7, 2017 - January 10, 2018, Photo: Eric Swanson.

Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art , Installation view at SITElab, SITE Santa Fe, NM, October 7, 2017 – January 10, 2018, Photo: Eric Swanson.

The new exhibit opening this weekend at Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB), “Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art,” is a series of light-boxes and video animations by Oakland-based artist Kota Ezawa that chronicles some of the most infamous and high-profile museum heists in history. At the heart of this exhibition is a series of images paying homage to the 13 artworks—including those by Degas, Manet, Rembrandt and Vermeer— stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art , Installation view at SITElab, SITE Santa Fe, NM, October 7, 2017 - January 10, 2018, Photo: Eric Swanson.

Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art , Installation view at SITElab, SITE Santa Fe, NM, October 7, 2017 – January 10, 2018, Photo: Eric Swanson.

Ezawa’s digital interpretations of the stolen masterpieces are presented to scale and illuminated in light-boxes that serve as modern apparitions of the centuries-old works. According to MCASB, “These technological vestiges are at once copies of the originals, while also carrying the mark of Ezawa’s animated hand. Reduced to flat planes of color, the original paintings take on new life as Ezawa plays with ideas of appropriation and originality.”

Kota Ezawa, Still from Exquisite Corpse , 2017, Single-channel color video, Courtesy the Artist; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

Kota Ezawa, Still from Exquisite Corpse , 2017, Single-channel color video, Courtesy the Artist; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

Also on display with the light boxes are video works, including a black and white reproduction of the security footage of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.

“My prior drawings exclusively used photographs as source material. This series for the first time draws upon painting only to recognize that painters before 1850, like Rembrandt and Vermeer, were essentially the photographers of their time. In the absence of photographs, their paintings take on the task of recording reality with the scrutiny and minuteness that we now expect from cameras,” says Ezawa. “In this way, the new series extends my project ‘The History of Photography Remix’ into the pre-photography age of images. In addition, I feel compelled to produce an exhibition dealing with ‘stolen artworks’ because my own process could be regarded as a form of image theft. One could say I’m hoping to steal these images back and give them a new life.”

Kota Ezawa, Still from Exquisite Corpse , 2017, Single-channel color video, Courtesy the Artist; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

Kota Ezawa, Still from Exquisite Corpse , 2017, Single-channel color video,
Courtesy the Artist; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; and Haines Gallery,
San Francisco.

“In the absence of the original works, viewers must rely solely on reproductions of the lost Stewart Gardner paintings. Whether printed in a textbook, projected in a lecture hall, or gathered from Google image search results, artwork reproductions are ubiquitous. In this way, Ezawa asks: what does it mean to be original?” say the Organizers.

Kota Ezawa, Empty Frame , 2015, Duratrans transparency and LED lightbox, 24 x 33 in., Courtesy the Artist; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

Kota Ezawa, Empty Frame , 2015, Duratrans transparency and LED lightbox,
24 x 33 in., Courtesy the Artist; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

Ezawa’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at SITE Santa Fe (2017), Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2013), Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite (2012) and Hayward Gallery Project Space, London (2007), as well as in recent group

Kota Ezawa, Munch Theft , 2017, Duratrans transparency and LED lightbox, 40 x 50 in., Courtesy the Artist; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; and Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

Kota Ezawa, Munch Theft , 2017, Duratrans transparency and LED lightbox, 40 x 50 in., Courtesy the Artist; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; and Haines
Gallery, San Francisco.

exhibitions at Hamburger Kunsthalle (2018); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2017); Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (2017); and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2016). Ezawa’s work has earned a number of awards, including the SECA Art Award of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006), a Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation (2010), and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award (2003). His work is included in renowned collections such as: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Kunsthalle Bremen, among others.

Kota Ezawa: The Crime of Art  was curated by Irene Hofmann and organized by SITE Santa Fe with the Mead Art Museum.

The opening reception is Saturday, November 10, from 6 – 8 p.m., with a special discussion session, “In Conversation: Kota Ezawa with Curator Irene Hofmann,” that evening from 5-6 p.m.  The show will remain on view through February 3, 2019 at MCASB, 653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara, mcasantabarbara.org.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 9, 2018.

Paths of Gold: Japanese Landscape and Narrative Paintings from the Collection

Views of Itsukushima and Wakanoura (detail), Japanese, Edo period, mid-17th century. Ink, color, and gold leaf on paper; pair of six-panel folding screens. SBMA, Museum Purchase, Peggy and John Maximus Fund.

Views of Itsukushima and Wakanoura (detail), Japanese, Edo period, mid-17th century. Ink, color, and gold leaf on paper; pair of six-panel folding screens. SBMA, Museum Purchase, Peggy and John Maximus Fund.

Choice selections from Santa Barbara Museum of Art‘s extensive Japanese painting collection are on view beginning Saturday, November 10, in the new exhibit Paths of Gold: Japanese Landscape and Narrative Paintings from the Collection.

Traditional Japanese houses were constructed of wood with paper windows and doors, and rice-straw matting (tatami mats) covering the floors. Each room—separated by sliding door panels—was like a virtual blank slate that could be repurposed and redecorated to suit each purpose, and, for certain occasions, could be outfitted with glistening screens and objects of color and gold.

Screens were changed seasonally or commissioned specifically for a celebration, a gathering of like minded friends, or a political assembly. A gilded screen enhanced the ambient light in a room, and at the same time, impressed, or even humbled visitors as it reflected the wealth or status of the patron.

Crows in Early Winter (detail), Kishi Chikudō, Japanese, 1826-1897. Ink and color on gold ground; pair of six-panel folding screens. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by Lord and Lady Ridley-Tree, Priscilla Giesen, and special funds.

Crows in Early Winter (detail), Kishi Chikudō, Japanese, 1826-1897. Ink and color on gold ground; pair of six-panel folding screens. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by Lord and Lady Ridley-Tree, Priscilla Giesen, and special funds.

This exhibition examines the aesthetics of Japanese art within both private and public interiors by showcasing nine folding screens, two scroll paintings, and examples of lacquerware selected from the permanent collection, supplemented by two local loans. Paths of Gold features screens dating from the 16th through the 19th centuries, at the end of which Japan opened to European and American trade.

Among the treasures in the exhibition is a lavishly decorated 17th-century set of three handscrolls, attributed to Tosa Mitsuoki (1617–1691). Painted with exquisite mineral pigments and gold, The Tale of Bunshō narrates a story about the rise of the merchant class and the struggles of women. On display as well are a hanging scroll and screen paintings from the Meiji era (1868–1912), a time when formats and subjects were introduced for the newly-conceived public exhibition hall. Also on display are examples of lacquerware from the collection, decorated with various gold techniques, adding to the multi-faceted painterly splendor in the Japanese interior.

This exhibition is co-curated by Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Susan Tai, Elizabeth Atkins Curator of Asian Art at SBMA. It is on view November 10, 2018 – February 10, 2019. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is located at 1130 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara. It is open Tuesday – Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Free Thursday Evenings from 5 – 8 p.m. For more information, call 805/963-4364, or visit www.sbma.net.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 9, 2018.

Pianos Jazz Up State Street

Pianos on State, photo by Art Fisher.

Pianos on State, photo by Art Fisher.

State Street’s got some rhythm in its soul this month with the annual Pianos on State interactive musical exhibit on display throughout October.

In its 9th year, the exhibition will extend from October 2-24,  and feature pianos painted by Santa Barbara-based artists—all of which are available for community exploration, impromptu play and group performances.

This year’s panel received a record number of submissions, according to organizers from Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture. The selected artists include Aviel Hyman, Mahina Martinson, Ariana Meyers, Jack Mohr, Amanda Phillips, Melody Rose, Sheryl Schroeder, Lanny Sherwin and Richard Stokes. Additional community partners working with local students and artists to design pianos include Art From Scrap, the Santa Barbara Public Library Central Branch, The Arts Fund and Youth Interactive.

Pianos on State, photo by Art Fisher.

Pianos on State, photo by Art Fisher.

Helmed by the Santa Barbara Bowl, this program represents a unique collaboration that aims to provide arts exposure for residents and visitors of all ages. “The pianos are a beloved tradition that enhances the cultural vibrancy of Santa Barbara and the downtown corridor. It is a way to engage the community by inviting participants of all ages and backgrounds to experience performing arts in a public space,” says Kai Tepper, Santa Barbara Bowl Education Outreach Program Manager. Additional producing partners include the City of Santa Barbara, Office of Arts and Culture, The Arts Fund, Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative, Downtown Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and New Noise SB. Many local sponsors and businesses also help sponsor and underwrite costs.

Isaac Hernandez. Untitled. Acrylic paint on piano. Exhibited outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. November 7, 2010. ©2010 Isaac Hernandez/IsaacArt.com.

Isaac Hernandez. Untitled. Acrylic paint on piano. Exhibited outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. November 7, 2010. ©2010 Isaac Hernandez/IsaacArt.com.

An opening celebration takes place on 1st Thursday, October 4, from 5-8 p.m. as artists traverse the pianos and the Piano Boys perform at the Library’s piano at the intersection of State and Anapamu Streets.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 3, 2018.

Wild Up at SBMA: GRADIENT

The modern music collective wild Upan adventurous chamber orchestra committed to creating visceral, thought-provoking happenings—comes to Santa Barbara Museum of Art on September 27 with a program inspired by Nam June Paik’s TV Clock. Featuring  Violinist Andrew McIntosh, the performance is  about space, light, and the passing of time.

Nam June Paik, TV Clock, 1963/1989. Twenty-four fixed-image color television monitors mounted on 24 pedestals. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Grace Jones Richardson Trust, Lillian and Jon B. Lovelace, Leatrice and Eli Luria and the Luria Foundation, Zora and Les Charles and the Cheeryble Foundation, Wendy and Elliot Friedman, and Lord and Lady Ridley-Tree.

Nam June Paik, TV Clock, 1963/1989. Twenty-four fixed-image color television monitors mounted on 24 pedestals. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Grace Jones Richardson Trust, Lillian and Jon B. Lovelace, Leatrice and Eli Luria and the Luria Foundation, Zora and Les Charles and the Cheeryble Foundation, Wendy and Elliot Friedman, and Lord and Lady Ridley-Tree.

Situated in front of Paik’s work, four wild Up violinists perform elegant and visceral works by Anahita Abbasi, John Cage, Tashi Wada, and Steve Reich. The event is free, but reservations are required as seating is limited.

wild Up has been called “Best in Classical Music 2015” and “…a raucous, grungy, irresistibly exuberant…fun-loving, exceptionally virtuosic family” by Zachary Woolfe of The New York Times, “Searing. Penetrating. And thrilling” by Fred Child of Performance Today and “Magnificent” by Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times. Over the last eight years, wild Up has collaborated with orchestras, rock bands and cultural institutions around the world.

The performance takes place on Thursday, September 27, from 6 – 7 p.m. at Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St., Santa Barbara. It is free but please reserve tickets at the Museum Visitor Services desk, or online at tickets.sbma.net.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 25, 2018.

Local Lowdown: Heather James Fine Art Gallery

The future site of the Heather James Fine Art Gallery on Coast Village Road, courtesy photo.

The future site of the Heather James Fine Art Gallery on Coast Village Road, courtesy photo.

Serious contemporary art collectors are in for a sweet surprise this fall when the new Heather James Fine Art Gallery opens at 1298 Coast Village Rd. in Montecito. Husband and wife James (Jim) Carona and Heather Sacre—whose combined names can be found on the walls of prestigious gallery locations in New York, San Francisco, Palm Desert and Jackson Hole—were vacationing in Santa Barbara when they came upon the Coast Village Road location that Carona describes as a “perfect fit” for a museum quality art gallery. “It was an opportunistic situation, but we often do things on an opportunistic basis,” he says.

Set against a backdrop of Spanish-style architecture, the program of exhibitions will echo Heather James’ four other galleries, whose exhibits have included paintings by Van Gogh, several Monets, a masterpiece by Matisse—which achieved one of the the highest prices ever paid at auction—cubist Picasso paintings and a Frida Kahlo self-portrait.

As Coast Village Road gets back on its feet after the disastrous debris flow earlier in the year, Carona says, “We’re excited to be coming to Montecito during this period of time. We had not yet signed a lease when the disaster hit, but had made a verbal commitment and have a lot of confidence in the area.”

Editor’s Note: The gallery’s opening date has been moved to November 2018. The gallery is expected to open by October 1. heatherjames.com

Leslie Dinaberg

This story was originally published in the fall 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Erik ReeL : Zero Point & Rhonda P. Hill Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art

From Erik ReeL : Zero Point.

From Erik ReeL : Zero Point.

GraySpace hosts a pair of interesting new exhibits, both of which open on Friday.

Erik ReeL : Zero Point is the first local solo exhibition in a decade for ReeL, an improvisational non-objective painter. Featuring major new paintings and studies never shown before, GraySpace has coupled ReeL’s solo show with an exhibition curated by Rhonda P. Hill, ReeL’s wife, titled Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art, which will introduce a group of exciting, young, international fashion designers to Santa Barbara.

Two talks, one with Erik ReeL on non-objective painting, and a panel featuring Rhonda Hill and Erik ReeL, will be held during the exhibition (dates to be announced).

From Rhonda P. Hill Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art.

From Rhonda P. Hill
Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art.

Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art spotlights selected work by fashion designers, Tingyue Jiang, Alena Kalana, Susan Tancer and Hera Zhou, who blur the distinction between art and fashion. Hill makes a strong claim for fashion to be considered as a cultural phenomenon that can, in certain forms, be called art—on par with any other visual art. Hill points out that fashion can, in the right hands, consciously work on deeper levels that deal with our consciousness, identity and sense of place within our culture.

Graffiti Cluster bags by Susan Tancer.

Graffiti bags by Susan Tancer.

There will be an artists reception for both shows on Friday, September 21, from 5-8 p.m.

GraySpace Gallery is located at 219 Gray Ave., in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. The gallery is open Friday-Sunday from  1 – 6 p.m., and both shows will remain on view through November 11.

High-style Brooklyn Museum costume collection Charles James, photo by Rhonda P. Hill, courtesy of edgexpo-com.

High-style Brooklyn Museum costume collection Charles James, photo by Rhonda P. Hill, courtesy of edgexpo-com.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 20, 2018.

“Storm Reading” Celebration

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

When Access Theatre’s pioneering play Storm Reading debuted at the Lobero in 1988, it was a ground-breaking piece of theater, which went on to inspire audiences in show after show worldwide for nearly a decade. Part of what made this play so extraordinary is the central character, Neil Marcus, who played himself during the play’s six-year run. Marcus lives with a very visible disability and works hard to represent life in a realistic way that is not focused on the fear of being different.

“The world says ‘You are a spastic quadriplegic.’ I say I’m a dancer. There’s a new movement happening in the world. People are beginning to realize they are more than what they’ve been told they are. The flame is fanned. The fire spreads. Every moment is a new moment to do what’s never been done before,” says Marcus in Storm Reading.

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Now a new generation has the opportunity to familiarize itself with the show, when Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation hosts “Celebrating Storm Reading,” an evening with the acclaimed Access Theatre cast (Neil Marcus, Matthew Ingersoll and Kathryn Voice) and Director/Producer Rod Lathim. Along with special guest Anthony Edwards, the cast and creators will return to the Lobero Theatre to take a look back at the impact the play had on audiences and at the sustaining message that art holds the transformative power to heal body and mind. Selected scenes from the show will be staged and scenes from the television version will be screened.

“This year is the 30th anniversary of the debut of Storm Reading,” says Lathim, founder and artistic director of the award-winning theatre company, Access Theatre, from 1979-1996. “Storm Reading was unique because it was created here in Santa Barbara and went on to tour internationally.”

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Storm Reading, courtesy photo.

Storm Reading went on to tour through 20 states in the USA, as well as Canada and England over six years, and it garnered recognition from several luminaries in the entertainment world. Maria Shriver interviewed Marcus on The Today Show, and Linda Wertheimer featured him on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Storm Reading was performed as part of the NBC TV Special “From the Heart” at the Kennedy Center with Access Theatre Honorary Board Member Michael Douglas.

Don’t miss “Celebrating Storm Reading” at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara) on Friday, September 21 at 7 p.m. A VIP reception begins at 5:30 pm. For tickets and more information, visit cottagehealth.org/crhevent.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 19, 2018.

Nell Campbell: Portrait of Cuba

Fisherman on the Malecon, Havana 2002, 40 x 40 archival pigment print, by Nell Campbell.

Fisherman on the Malecon, Havana 2002, 40 x 40 archival pigment print, by Nell Campbell.

Don’t miss Nell Campbell‘s collection of photographs from her travels to Cuba. The exhibition, Nell Campbell: Portrait of Cuba, is on view at wall space at the Waterline Shops (120 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara) through August 31.

There will be an artist’s reception on Wednesday, August 22, from 6-8 p.m. at the gallery. wall space at the Waterline Shops is open Sunday-Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on August 21, 2018.

10 West Gallery: The Nature of Things

Ben Riddering "Whorl," reclaimed wood from the fires, 58 x 16 x 35 tall, on view at 10 West Gallery.

Ben Riddering “Whorl,” reclaimed wood from the fires, 58 x 16 x 35 tall, on view at 10 West Gallery.

The Nature of Things opens on Thursday, May 31, at 10 West Gallery in downtown Santa Barbara.

On view until June 25, with an artist’s reception on Thursday, June 7, from 5-8 p.m., this exhibit features work from guest artist Ben Riddering, who shows his large abstract sculptures, made from the unburned hearts of trees lost to wildfire. Also on view is work by guest artist Lynn Brown, who shows embellished/repurposed masks from around the world. Guest artist Jim McKinniss shows black and white photography of a surreal nature.

Lynn Cunningham Brown, "VaVaVaVoom," vintage Balinese hand-carved wood mask embellished with studs, Swarovski crystals, tacks, weasel fur, glitter, Chinese rooster and jungle cock feathers, 10x7x4 inches, on view at 10 West Gallery.

Lynn Cunningham Brown, “VaVaVaVoom,” vintage Balinese hand-carved wood mask embellished with studs, Swarovski crystals, tacks, weasel fur, glitter, Chinese rooster and jungle cock feathers, 10x7x4 inches, on view at 10 West Gallery.

In addition, the exhibition includes work by 10 West members Penny Arntz, Rick Doehring, Maria Miller, Lisa Pedersen and Iben G. Vestergaard.

10 West artwork can be seen at www.10westgallery.com and the gallery (including participating guest artists) is also represented on the international web site: www.artsy.net/10-west-gallery.

Brad Nuorala, "Urban Life," acrylic on canvas, 50" x 42" on view at 10 West Gallery.

Brad Nuorala, “Urban Life,” acrylic on canvas, 50″ x 42″ on view at 10 West Gallery.

Iben Vestergaard, "Cross Section," 48x36, silicate and mixed media on canvas, on view at 10 West Gallery.

Iben Vestergaard, “Cross Section,” 48×36, silicate and mixed media on canvas, on view at 10 West Gallery.

Penny Arntz, "Filament," acrylic on panel, 24 x 24, on view at 10 West Gallery.

Penny Arntz, “Filament,” acrylic on panel, 24 x 24, on view at 10 West Gallery.

Maria Miller, "Escaping the Present Moment," limited edition digital collage 1/5, archival pigment inks on fine art paper, 30x20 inches, on view at 10 West Gallery.

Maria Miller, “Escaping the Present Moment,” limited edition digital collage 1/5, archival pigment inks on fine art paper, 30×20 inches, on view at 10 West Gallery.

Closed Tuesdays, the gallery (10 W. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, 805/770-7711) is open daily from 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and from noon-5 p.m. on Sundays.  

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on May 30, 2018.

INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons by Brett Leigh Dicks

Port Arthur, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Port Arthur, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

“Empty prisons are eerie places where the walls do speak. Etched into the stone is the passing of successive generations of inmates all with their own stories. Each prison has its own history, character, and tales to tell and so too does every cell. But old prisons are not just a reminder of the past—they also help guide the future,” says Photographer Brett Leigh Dicks.

Opening on May 18, INSIDE: Photographs of Australian Decommissioned Prisons by Brett Leigh Dicks is an exhibition at the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara of compelling, black and white images documenting Australian prison facilities that have surpassed their use-by dates.

Parramatta, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Parramatta, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Dicks, a Santa Barbara-based writer/photographer has spent the past 30 years photographing various natural and urban landscapes etched with traces of human history.

His work has been exhibited in Australia, Europe and the United States and hung beside photographers as diverse as Ansel Adams, Jeff Bridges, Max Dupain, Lewis Morley, Yoko Ono and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Dicks’ prison photographs currently sees him as a finalist in the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards. He is also a prolific writer and his work has appeared in publications around the world, including in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Old Melbourne, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Old Melbourne, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

For the past five years he has turned his photographic scrutiny upon closed-down jails, prisons and penitentiaries throughout Australia, Europe and United States. He returned last year to his Australian homeland, where he undertook the first comprehensive documentation of decommissioned prisons and jails.

“I have been photographing abandoned prisons across the United States for the past decade,” Dicks explains. “In 2016 that work was exhibited at Fremantle Prison where I asked about Australian prisons. Nobody had previously done a comprehensive study of old Australian prisons so last summer I set off with my camera and photographed closed –down facilities all across Australia.”

Maitland, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Maitland, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

He continues, “I was given access Parramatta Correctional Center where operations were suspended only a few years ago, traipsed around the infamous Port Arthur Historic Site in the midst of a bitter Tasmanian winter and even managed to talk my way into an old jail that’s now an outback police station.”

The exhibition includes both historic and contemporary Australian sites including Adelaide Gaol, Fremantle Prison, J Ward Ararat, Maitland Gaol, Old Melbourne Gaol, Parramatta Correctional Center, Port Arthur Historic Site, Trial Bay Gaol and the Wilcannia Police Station. The subject matter ranges from the empty quietness of once bustling cellblocks and common areas to more abstract contemplations of the interaction between barred windows with the morning light and the poetic twisting of coils of barbed wire.

Fremantle, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Fremantle, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

While Port Arthur closed in 1877, Parramatta Correctional Center housed prisoners until 2011. Dicks says photographing the two locations offered two very contrasting experiences. “There were still books and televisions and personal items in the cells at Parramatta—the ins and out of prison life remained very apparent whereas Port Arthur featured the haunting remnants of rustic metal and stone. The prisoner experience was obviously very different at each of those locations and so too were the resulting photographs.

Regarding the role photography can play in the afterlife of prisons, Dicks says that every society’s approach to punishment and incarceration should be something that is constantly being reassessed. “As society changes so too does its values. Prisons used to be a place of punishment and repentance, but in the lifespan of some of these prisons they were transformed into places of reform and rehabilitation. Justice and the form it takes should be an ongoing conversation in every community and I think there is a place for photography to illuminate that.

Ararat, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Ararat, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

INSIDE: Photographs of Australian Decommissioned Prisons by Brett Leigh Dicks is on view at the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara, 229 E. Victoria St., Santa Barbara, from May 18 – July 12, with an opening reception on May 18 from 5-7 p.m.

Regular gallery hours are Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. and by appointment (please contact Rocio Iribe at 805/965-6307).

Adelaide, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Adelaide, part of INSIDE: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons, by Brett Leigh Dicks.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on May 15, 2018.