Ángel Alberto Amy Moreno’s exhibition, “Voices and Silences,” runs at UForge Gallery through July 17, James Morgan reports for the Jamaica Plains (Mass) newspaper.
If a vacation to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Spain is not in your summer plans, be sure to visit the “Voices and Silences,” or “Voces y Silencios” exhibition at UFORGE Gallery where you can take a vicarious voyage through the eyes of talented photographer Ángel Alberto Amy Moreno. Moreno’s stunning black and white photos of Santo Domingo, San Juan and several cities in Spain, are not by a long run tourist snapshots.
At the recent reception for “Voices and Silences,” where the artist signed copies of his eponymously titled book, he described his work as “not casual but composed.” The photograph “Relajación,” for example, he explained was shot outside the Picasso Museum where he waited for the right instant to capture an unsuspecting subject’s leg just as she placed it in his camera’s range.
Moreno’s timing is indeed precise and premeditated. “Farola 2” shows a barred and shuttered window with a lamp post and low relief column on each side. The piece is an ingenious trompe l’oeil that fools the viewer into believing that the light’s shadow is the actual lamp post itself. Taken a moment earlier or later in the shifting sunlight, the photograph would not be the perfect balance of horizontal and vertical elements that it is. The show “Voices and Silences” could just as easily have been called “Light and Shadow.”
Moreno is something of a Renaissance man. In addition to his work as a photographer and author, he has worked as a curator, an educator, and as a journalist with a 25 year long career at Boston’s El Mundo newspaper. He is also a trained historian. Moreno holds two PhD’s, one in education and another in Spanish and Latin American history.
His sense of history extends to Jamaica Plain as well. He has deep roots in the community, where he has lived since 1977. Moreno was one of the founding members of the JP Arts Council.
“I had my first show at the fire station, where JP Licks is now,” he said.
“The older the better,” he said of his subject matter. “I feel the weight of history.” In his work, he explained, “I traced the origins of the empire to Spain where it all began in 1492. I followed the Spanish transplant of its imperial rule in both San Juan and Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo was the first Spanish settlement in the New World, as well as the seat of the empire, until Mexico was encountered in 1519, and later Perú in 1533.”
In much of Moreno’s oeuvre, the apparent subject matter is architecture. “You can still watch and feel the power and greatness . . . as reflected in some of the colonial buildings including some of its roads and walls,” he explained.
In “Torre del Homenaje,” a fortified iron door opens on to a paved plaza. In the distance looms a crenulated tower. The commanding vista appears to have withstood all possible calamities, from sieges to hurricanes and earthquakes.
“The Spanish built cities to last forever, something that we have lost today” commented Moreno.
Moreno’s work is sparsely populated. In photographs like “Iglesia de San José” or “Parque de Palomas” he includes images of a stray dog or a pair of pigeons mostly it seems to serve as a measure of the scale of the architecture by which they are dwarfed.
Despite their contemporary time and place, Moreno’s work recalls a lost era. In the preface to Moreno’s book, David Updike’s essay, entitled “Photographic Quietness and Esthetical Mysticism,” compares Moreno’s work to the “black and white tradition of great 19th and 2oth century photographers Henri-Cartier Bresson, Brassai, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo.”
The comparison of these masterful urban street photographers to Moreno is an apt one. Moreno’s photos transform elusive moments, a shaft of sunlight or a silhouette, into enduring images. In the details of his pictures, like these photographic pioneers, he captures the essences of the places that he documents.
“I have wondered many times what sort of stories could be written if these stones, walls, doors and windows could speak to us. “
“Voices and Silences,” or “Voces y Silencios: Photographs by Ángel Alberto Amy Moreno will be on display until July 17 at UFORGE Gallery (617-533-4480) 767 Centre Street. Gallery hours are Thursday and Friday 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. For more information about Ángel Alberto Amy Moreno, please visit the artist’s website.