Shotgun Reviews

Daniel Dallabrida: Building the Noble Ruin at the Anderson Art Ranch

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Kristin Carlson reviews Building the Noble Ruin at the Patton-Malott and Gideon Gartner Galleries of Anderson Art Ranch in Snowmass Village, Colorado. 

Daniel Dallabrida. Upon Reflection (Life) Fraternitas Misericordia in pace prima del diluvio / At Peace Before the Deluge, 1964–2015; Edition of 15. 100 x 132 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Anderson Art Ranch.

Daniel Dallabrida. Upon Reflection (Life) Fraternitas Misericordia in Pace Prima del Diluvio/At Peace Before the Deluge, 1964–2015; 100 x 132 in.; edition of 15. Courtesy of the Artist and Anderson Art Ranch.

Excavated from iconic gay culture and artist Daniel Dallabrida’s own personal history, Building the Noble Ruin at Anderson Ranch represents over five decades of history compiled from two distinct series: Upon Reflection and Ruins. While Upon Reflection commemorates a time when AIDS had not yet surfaced, Ruins honors the nobility that can arise from such a tragedy. The joint body of work projects a vision of the past into the future—and vice versa. Perhaps more importantly, it invites viewers to consider the feelings, ideas, and attitudes that we, as observers, may project onto our viewing experience.

One of the most arresting installations is a triptych titled Fraternitas Misericordia in Pace Prima del Diluvio/At Peace Before the Deluge (1964–2015). The work anchors a full wall, from which the subjects of the parade-size banners watch over the gallery like patron saints or vigilantes. Not only are the enormous banners imposing, the stark figures pictured seem to gaze back at viewers with candid appraisal, as though we, the gallery-goers, are the real subjects on display.

To create the large color C-prints, the artist layered iconic photographs with digital impressions of his own ceramics, which he then projected against textile backdrops in a process he calls “Sympathetic Photoshop.” The result is a stratum of textures, shapes, and images that conjure the sense of an archaeological dig into the golden age of gay San Francisco.

Small-scale ceramic wall hangings and high-resolution images of them are interspersed with Dallabrida’s multimedia C-prints, conveying the sense that he has excavated and cataloged a treasure trove of historic, cultural, and ecological finds. Vibrant and hyper-real, All the Light We Cannot See (1956–2015) appears, at first glance, like an extreme close-up of a cave wall or other geological wonder. The object at the heart of the work is actually a piece of Dallabrida’s own ceramic art in earthy gem tones, laid open by macroscopic photography so that every divot, notch, and gash is exposed. Don’t just reflect on the art, the image seems to suggest; instead, examine the ways in which the images reflect back on the viewer—and on the human condition—in the moment of time they represent.

My Most Honest Memoir (1956–2015) particularly nudges viewers to abandon the role of passive spectator. Resembling a darkened mirror, the steel-and-glass installation defines and distorts every reflection it captures, asking us to reconsider the image that we think of as ourselves. While Building the Noble Ruin clearly explores the life and times of one man, it also unearths a universal bedrock of human experience—the desire to see and be seen.

Daniel Dallabrida: Building the Noble Ruin is on view in the Patton-Malott and Gideon Gartner Galleries at Anderson Art Ranch through February 27, 2015.

Kristin Carlson is a freelance journalist, playwright, and art fan who currently resides in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

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