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Thomas Michael Alleman: Sunshine & Noir opens at Robin Rice Gallery
Thomas Michael Alleman, San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, 2011.
NEW YORK, NY.- The Robin Rice Gallery presents Thomas Michael Alleman’s second photography exhibition, Sunshine & Noir. The show celebrates Alleman’s recent additions to the ongoing series of visceral urban landscapes. The opening reception will be held Wednesday, March 13, 2013, from 5:30PM to 8:30PM.

Since the inception of Sunshine & Noir in 2001, Alleman has shot extensively in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and other American cities. In his latest iteration Alleman takes a detour beyond the frenetic landscapes of urban America into Paris — playfully guiding the viewer through a simultaneously familiar and foreign geography.

In the exhibition, square and panoramic landscapes and iconic landmarks stretch across the gallery, where Alleman creates intrigue by re-expressing instantly recognizable subjects. Images with blurred, vignetted edges epitomize his surrealist style, haunting throughout the series. His artful mastery at capturing movement is seen in the invitational image, San Fernando Valley, LA, where a van is swallowed by a mass of twisted bicycles. The blurred clouds above give the illusion that the broken down vehicle is actually racing down the highway. This interesting paradox of a decrepit van seemingly in lively motion reflects Alleman’s trademark style — quirky, humorous, and often nostalgic.

His love for the ironic and misplaced becomes further evident in the panoramic California Theater Marquee, LA. Once grandiose, the hotel marquee takes on an eerie, carnival-like quality when shot dilapidated and discarded in a storage yard near the Hollywood Hills. To make his panoramas, Alleman exploits “the very primitive technology” of his camera. The Holga, a medium-format plastic camera dating from 1982 allows him to “make terrible mistakes” on purpose. He intentionally “under cranks” the film-advance, such that several consecutive pictures bump into and overlap one another, causing the images to bleed and fade together to form an apparent panorama.

Despite “laughable failures” as “focus, exposure and parallax are uncontrollable,” Alleman’s deliberate camera choice achieves a dancing dynamic between lightness and darkness characterizing Sunshine & Noir. “The shutter sometimes bounces, causing partial double-exposures; light-leaks are inevitable, but random. Much to my surprise, however, the freaky results of that technical dysfunction resembled precisely the pictures I’d been dreaming of…” Alleman says.

An acclaimed lifelong photographer, Alleman’s career and technique travelled full circle, but by no simple trajectory. As a photojournalist when clarity and detail were paramount, he mastered Nikons and the highly technical Hasselblad. Opting for messier execution and rudimentary unruliness, Alleman discovers a somewhat hard-edged sentimentality in the show.

A Michigan State University English Literature graduate with no formal photography training, Alleman credits the influence of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand. As a magazine freelancer, Alleman’s photos have been published regularly in Time, People, Business Week, Smithsonian, and the National Geographic Traveler. Most notably, Alleman was named California Newspaper’s Photographer of the Year in 1995 and Los Angeles Newspaper’s Photographer of the Year in 1996. Nonetheless, the award he is most proud of came in 2011 from Photography Book Now, who awarded Sunshine & Noir first place in the travel book category.

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