Monday, July 17, 2017

Classic American Playgrounds and Skies Seen Through the Lens of Brenda Biondo

Brenda Biondo: Play
San Diego Museum of Art
Gallery 15: Mrs. Thomas J Fleming Sr. Foyer
Through January 7th, 2018

Article by Cathy Breslaw
Brenda Biondo, Burlington, CO, 2009. Color photograph. Image courtesy of the artist. 

Colorado photographer Brenda Biondo’s constructed abstractions and playground images fill the Mrs. Thomas J Fleming Sr. foyer of the museum with a combination of fascination and nostalgia.  The Paper Skies series are a group of formal minimalist abstractions which at first glance resemble paintings.  However, they are printed photographs created as the result of paper being cut, folded and then re-photographed against the sky. Biondo begins by photographing the sky at different times of day. She then prints out the desired photographs, manipulates them, and then re-photographs the shaped photographs against a sky. The photos are then printed onto thin aluminum using a dye sublimation process, lending a slight metallic sheen and a polished quality to the surfaces.  This series also reveals atmospheric color as well as noting the ambiguity of the real versus the reproduced. These images brings to mind modernist painters like Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly who used geometry in rather simple and straightforward ways but are also visually compelling images.

Biondo’s second body of work comprises 15 photographs depicting the evolution and obsolescence of the traditional American playground.  Her photos unearth memories of early and mid century playgrounds made of mostly metal and materials no longer used in contemporary play structures. To prepare for her photographic series, Biondo researched vintage catalogs and historic photos from the 1920’s to the 1970’s including classic seesaws, slides, spinners and whimsical animal jungle gyms. Her photographs using iconic American symbols like rocket ships, and lunar landers were popular because of space exploration  during the 1960’s, while other photographs depict structures from the 1950’s when cartoon characters, cowboys and Indians, Cinderella and other pop culture references were widely used. Her photographs allow us to revisit icons of childhoods past as well as documenting their place in American culture. Biondo’s playground photographs share similar geometric and minimalist compositions with the paper skies series and the use of light in an atmospheric way.

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