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Christa Blackwood artfully mines the history of photography

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
From the exhibit “Christa Blackwood: Prix West” at Photo Méthode Gallery through Feb. 28.

With aplomb, Christa Blackwood marshals a breathtaking yet subtle critique of the traditional history of landscape and portrait photography in “Prix West,” her newest series on view at Photo Méthode Gallery.

If landscape masters such as Ansel Adams celebrated the conquest of the American West in black and white, while seminal portrait photographers such as Edward Steichen invariably objectified the female body, Blackwood deftly undoes such history of the male gaze.

Using a large-format view camera, Blackwood trained her lens on a young male nude figure, staging him with much attention to composition in the rugged desert mountain landscape. Printed in luscious and large-scale black-and-white, Blackwood augments each scene with a translucent light pink shape of one kind or another.

Conceptually, the pink orbs, lines and boxes acts as guides, steering the viewer’s gaze to the essentialness of the scene — that is, a nude male figure in landscape.

But, breaking from male photographers of the past, Blackwood’s gaze contains a knowing sympathy of what — and who — her lens captures.

“Prix West.” Through Feb. 28 at Photo Méthode Gallery, Flatbed building, 2832 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.