It takes a while to realize that your dealing with miniature trees, birds, and mountains, in Kim Keever’s expansive landscape photographs. His world seems almost too grand to be believable, which of course it is. Somewhere between reality and the way we might wish the world to be, is Keever’s delicately divined, lab-engineered, fantasy of a primeval planet. And it all takes place in a passing moment, under colored lights, in a fish tank.
The form is endlessly provocative. Individual reeds in a marshland, swirling clouds, unearthed tree roots, all call attention to the laborious and devoted process of Keever’s watery stages. Once the veil of the tank is slowly revealed through repeated viewing, one begins to notice two-dimensional smudges and scratches, layers of texture and collage in the background of the images. Some small points of transparency reward closer looks, revealing glimpses into the multi-dimensional quality of the stage-collages.
Like Cornell’s boxes, these images invite discovery and examination. Their structure is as much a part of the experience as the beauty of the final image. Where these images transcend, however, is in their ability to remain hidden in their photographic assumptions. One assumes an authentic, if unbelievably beautiful, physical space that has been visited by the photographer.
Rather than rely on his skill to keep the secret of the images, Keever chooses to slowly reveal the construction of his photographs, not through any sort of tutorial or videos of the lab, but through a gradual enlightening of the viewer. Keever takes advantage of the implausibility of the beauty he creates to leave behind subtle clues such as a floating piece of fauna, or a bird, slightly too large to be sitting atop its thin reed perch.
Eventually, after being absorbed by the sheer magic of the images, the truth is exposed, serving only to fascinate the viewer more. The science is revealed to be as masterful as the art.
Kim Keever: New Photographs
Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago
Sept 8—Oct 14, 2006