Reviews

Boston Globe

Photography Review
David Ricci

The subjects of David Ricci’s large Cibachrome prints seem unprepossessing – urban sports centers, open-air basketball courts and amusement arcades. These works embrace a complexity of visual elements as they seek to create harmonious compositions that are often devoid of human presence. Ricci’s eye concentrates on bold splashes of color and spatial geometries concocted from the lines and shapes of tourist hotels, concession booths, boardwalks and tall floodlights in parking lots.

Ricci’s work fits securely in a genre launched in the early 80’s by Robert Adams and other “new topographic” photographers who studied human-made alterations to the landscape. Ricci depicts the urban landscape as it is – without judgment, fanfare or social irony. These photographs slyly conceal a sense of calculation. They are intelligently composed: some come off almost casually, like a passing snapshot.

globe2One contributing component of Ricci’s work is the subtle inclusion of shadow – even occasionally the photographer’s – that visibly signify the presence of time. This component is heightened by the titles of images, which function like entries in a diary by including the date and hour of day that the negative was made. I especially like “Ocean City, New Jersey,” with its pale blue and apricot hues and odd palpable sense of place, as well as an image of a sports complex with the blurred figure of a basketball player and the painted circles on a court that are echoed elsewhere in the photo. Overall, these crisp and mostly successful photographs turn in upon themselves, underscoring the enticing artifice of the medium.

– Kelly Wise

Boston Herald

The Edge of Chaos: Photographs by David Ricci
Ricci finds bounty of meaning under surface of vacation spots

The names of David Ricci’s large-scale photographs read like a frenzied vacationer’s itinerary: “Castles and Coasters, Phoenix, AZ”; “Sea World. Aurora. OH”; “Trimper’s Amusements, Ocean City, MD”, “Disney’s All Star Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL”. And, as if the collection of places wasn’t enough, Ricci supplies dates and times, adding a fourth dimension to these fun spots – as well as a sense of urgency. The meter is running, the journal-like labels suggest. Better hurry.

Thus the reality of Ricci’s pictures comes as a surprise. A sublime, almost surrealistic calm fills these places, despite their garish colors and Erector-set conjunctions of metal. The crowds are gone, the roller coasters still, the picnic tables free of litter. In the absence of human clutter, Ricci is free to focus on the more permanent aspects of these shrines to passing pleasure. Umbrellas and awnings, flags, tents and walkways dazzle the eye with their patterns of color, shape and texture. Architectural wonders, heaped one before another in what at first seems like reckless abandon, coalesce into systems of jewel-like precision. The calligraphic loops of a roller coaster, spokes of a Ferris wheel, grids of a chain-link fence and grandstand supports slip from visual cacophony into something as harmonious as the workings of a Swiss watch.

“The Edge of Chaos” – Ricci’s title for this exhibition – refers to a field of study called complexity science, in which researchers seek out the entities emerging from systems that are so complicated they border on chaos. Long before such a field existed, however, artists – including photographers – were attempting to glean the essence of things from the surrounding noise. The poet Wordsworth looked from Westminster Bridge at a sleeping London and wrote: “Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! /The river glideth at his own sweet will? /Dear God! The very houses seem asleep! And all that mighty heart is lying still!” Ricci’s large-scale photographs ferret out the essence of places generally thought to have none. If he can find the heart amid such tackiness, Ricci implies that other surfaces, once scratched, would yield bounties of their own.

Fun VillageA mirrored ball sits on the ground in front of the half-built environment in “Fun Village, N. Myrtle Beach, SC. 4/8/93, 7:45 P.M.” Some tent roofs have been erected on poles, a white pyramid-shaped roof rests in the grass, not yet set up, and looking like the plastic remains of a distant civilization. The disco-style ball reflects it all, an April evening forever frozen onto its shimmery surface.

Whole worlds have been condensed in the places Ricci records. Eastern-influenced onion domes spring up at a miniature golf course in Arizona and an amusement park in New Jersey. Classical statuary is bathed by the turquoise glow surrounding Caesar’s Palace.

If you can’t get to the real Grand Canyon, you can visit Grand Slam Canyon Adventure in Las Vegas, as the photographer did one March afternoon. Huge tubes of mauve and blue swoop across this engineering masterpiece with gravity-defying abandon. Almost obscured within the skyless scene are the fragments of recognizable landscape: painted sets of rocky striations, here dwarfed by the magnitude of the man-made ride.

– JoAnne Silver

Art New England

Panopticon Gallery/Boston
David Ricci/New Work

David Ricci’s stunning large-scale Cibachrome photographs draw us into a world of color, pattern, and complexity. Considerations of actual subject matter and reflections on the American cultural landscape emerge after their initial impact, which is purely sensual. Ricci’s new work at Panopticon represents his continued odyssey to pleasure domes across the country – Fun Village, Wonderland Pier, Caesar’s Palace, Sea World, Disney’s All-Star Resort, theme parks, mini-golf courses, and carnivals. These are hardly your usual travel photos, however. The photographs celebrate repeating patterns of striped awnings, fake palm trees, banners, Ferris wheels, and the glistening steel girders that hold this world together. Ricci gives us a dazzling view of the skeletal architecture of cheap entertainment and middle-American artifice. He writes that he is drawn to these sites precisely because they “are commonly thought to be visually garish or aesthetically vacuous.” His camera exposes the quirky beauty of place.

Amusement park rides in the process of being disassembled or assembled remind us that the pleasure being consumed here is transitory and part of a man-made contrivance. There is little that is natural or organic looking. A vague apocalyptic threat hovers on the edges of these environments. On one level they speak of crowds, of laughter, prizes, and cotton candy. Yet Ricci shows us scenes relatively empty of human activity and frozen in time.

In works like Trimper’s Amusements, Ocean City, 1995 compositional complexity and extreme perspectives are strategies the artist uses to stretch the limits of the typical photograph and to situate the viewer deep inside visual space. Pavilion Amusement Park, 1993 and Grand Slam Canyon Adventure, Las Vegas, 1994 use ambiguous scale. We are bombarded by information and pattern. So many patterned elements are layered one on top of another that at first glance it is not clear what precisely is being pictured. In other photographs objects are designed to look like something they are not; miniature golf parks are legendary for this visual delight exploited by Ricci.

Although David Ricci is self-taught in art and photography, his work is informed by the dialogue between painting and photography that began in the late ’60s. The super-saturation of visual information calls up associations as diverse as the photorealistic cityscapes of Richard Estes and the abstract wall constructions Frank Stella did in the ’80s. Some of the most complicated photographs offer no single point of focus and resemble the chaotic and whimsical installations of sculptor Judy Pfaff. However, Ricci is very much the photographer’s photographer.

– Joyce Cohen

Selected Quotes

“David Ricci’s stunning large-scale photographs draw us into a world of color, pattern, and complexity…Ricci is very much the photographer’s photographer.”
– Joyce Cohen, Art New England

“Overall, these crisp and successful photographs turn in upon themselves, underscoring the enticing artifice of the medium.”
– Kelly Wise, The Boston Globe

“The calligraphic loops of a roller coaster, spokes of a Ferris wheel, grids of a chain-link fence…slip from visual cacophony into something as harmonious as the workings of a Swiss watch.”
– JoAnne Silver, Boston Herald

“David Ricci’s color photographs mesmerize us with their density and formal beauty.”
– Lisa Greenberg, Curator, The Art Complex Museum

“Out of mundane locations Ricci frames visions of formal elegance. The work is the result of superior standards and a unique personal vision.”
– Marion Grant, Curator, The Berkshire Museum

“Ricci’s bright skies and colorful settings appeal to the eye as they do the mind.”
– Gloria Russell, Springfield (MA) Republican

“(In these) photographs…there is a lot of sheer formal beauty…”
– Matt Damsker, Hartford Courant

“…Ricci frames the moment perfectly, creating an exhilarating pattern with his camera.”
– Otto Erbar, The Lowell Sun

“You might be surprised, as I was, by how visually demanding the photographs are.”
– William Jaegar, Albany (NY) Times Union