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October 13, 2000


UMBC's Fine Arts Gallery presents "Still (and all): Eileen Cowin, Work 1971-1998," from November 16 through December 31. The gallery is the first East Coast venue for this retrospective of 60 photographic works and two video installations by Eileen Cowin, curated by Sue Spaid, curator of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cinncinatti, Ohio. Cowin and Spaid will present a gallery talk at the Fine Arts Gallery at 3 p.m.on November 16; an opening reception will follow from 5 to7 p.m.

Eileen Cowin's art continues the wide-ranging traditions of narrative photography that stretch from 19th- century moralizing montages to the reportage photo-essays and fictional photographs of the 1960s. Her work is different from her predecessors by a distinctive contemporary psychological and cinematic sensibility. In Cowin's photographs and video installations she recognizes the viewer's tendancy to turn associated images into narratives. The works that she creates, however, are poetic rather than representational.

In the accompanying exhibition catalog, curator Sue Spaid notes, " 'Still (and all)' denotes a literal translation of some static and self-evident component (expressible) engulfed by a dynamic and inscrutible everything else (inexpressible). Paradoxically, still and all means 'nonetheless' or 'even with everything considered,' which actually contributes more skepticism regarding photography's veracity…. From the onset, Cowin has explored emotions, yet her images still espouse the difficulty of clearly articulating either an emotion's cause or its interpretation. If a still offers evidence, then the 'still' segment of Cowin's exhibition title connotes Roland Barthes' notion of the classic text, which has 'nothing more to say than what it says.' Thus, one can attribute the 'and all"'portion of her title to everything the photograph shows but does not specifically express."

Cowin has often remarked, "I have been involved in the study of relationships." An identical twin, she entered into an unusual long-term relationship at birth. Many other kinds of relationships occur in her work, including word/image, family/lovers, cause/effect, duration/activity, surveillance/voyeurism, stimulus/response, victim/persecutor, observer/observed, reality/fiction, subject/object and director/cast member.

In his catalog essay, Mark Alice Durant explains that "Cowin offers us an experiential art that is esoteric and accessible, simple and monumental. Cowin blurs the boundary between the still and moving image. She shows us the strange grace of gestures that float free of an anchoring liturgy; she describes unnamed rituals that occupy dark corners, and suddenly and temporarily she freezes them within the elegant frame of her camara. Cowin's images capture encounters in the shadows; her characters populate the edges of darkness, a limbo between the chaos of hell and the heaven of eternal illumination. Caught at this threshold we discover the ambiguity that is fundamental to our human experience."

"Still (and all)" was previously presented at the Armory Center for the Arts and the Southeast Museum of Photography and will also travel to the Contemporary Arts Center. The exhibition and publication are made possible by the generous support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Pasadena Arts Alliance and Peggy Phelps. The publication is distributed by Ram Publications and Distribution, Santa Monica, California.

The Fine Arts Gallery is a non-profit space dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art, and serves as a unique center for the university community and the general public in the visualization and discussion of important philosophical and aesthetic issues of the day. The gallery is partnering with 21 organizations in Baltimore City and beyond to produce the Joseph Beuys Tree Partnership (Phase I tree plantings on October 28 and November 11), a far-reaching visionary program inspired by artist Joseph Beuys' 7000 Oaks project, where 7000 trees were planted in Kassel, Germany from 1982 to 1987. The next exhibition is "Painting Zero Degree," (January 22-March 10, 2001) featuring abstract minimalist work by such artists as Daniel Buren, John McCracken and Robert Ryman.

Posted by dwinds1 at October 13, 2000 12:00 AM