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Tishken's photos expose the layers of urban scene


Keith Tishken's photograph "Monsters: Up From Below" features a partial face -- eyes and nose -- that stares out at the viewer menacingly. Its eyes don't want to let you go.

It's part of a poster, revealed as other posters plastered over it have worn or been torn away. Pieces of the superimposed posters obscure the bottom of the face, making it look as if it's rising out of the depths with some evil purpose in mind. It might be a still from a horror movie.

This is one of Tishken's series called "Urban Landscapes," currently on view at Baltimore Camera Works. Tishken roams inner cities -- Baltimore, New York, London, etc. -- seeking out the many-layered, peeling posters that adorn the walls of abandoned buildings. By carefully framing these artifacts with the camera, he can provide anything from a commentary on modern life to an abstract composition.

"American Dreams: Crisis on Main Street" is essentially the latter, despite its title. One can make out the legend "Silence=Death" along the bottom of the picture, but it is most rewarding as a study in geometric forms and gray and white tones.

"Modern American Family," like most of the works on view, belongs more in the realm of social comment. A youth stares out defiantly from the center of the image. Behind him, a woman looks down with a softer gaze. We can take this as familial, or the defiance of youth vs. the understanding of maturity; or, the difference in outlook of men and women.

Tishken has varying success with these works. Some, such as "Monsters: Oedipus Chuckie," are obvious and not of great interest.

His best works are the more complex, ambiguous and even disorienting, such as "NYC Urban Landscape." In this, we're not sure if we see the side of a building or a poster depicting a building. To further confuse things, a three-dimensional person appears to be standing behind a poster, which is nevertheless pasted on a wall. The work raises questions of reality and illusion. Like the posters that are Tishken's subject matter, this image has implications layered upon implications.


What: "Urban Landscapes: New Work" by Keith Tishken

Where: Baltimore Camera Works, 2129 N. Charles St.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, through March 10

Call: (410) 727-5534

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