Martin Frank, Whistles Blown
Exhibition Dates: January 11- February 5, 2023
Lucien Freud, famed British painter and grandson of psychoanalysis’ founder claimed that “the longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes and ironically the more real.” Whistles Blown is a sequence of images that supports this observation.
It begins with “Engine 299”, a locomotive built by the Cooke Locomotive Company in Paterson NJ. After laboring on the Panama Canal, it returned to its birthplace in 1976 where its restoration was hampered by the economic decline of a city which once dominated this country’s locomotive manufacturing. Distressed by rust and cheap attempts at re-painting, this once grand 60- ton iron behemoth is re-identifying itself. See how its angular painted symbols, pockmarked crumbling patina + wavy layers of watermarked rust now weave and turn on the tracks until just around the bend at the last image, an eerie moonscape is reached!
Whistles Blown uses a historic photographic process that employs platinum and palladium. Popular during the Age of the Steam Engine, the Russian Revolution and WW1 both interrupted the availability of these heavy metals, leading to a decline in their use in photography. Over the last couple of decades, however, it has been making a comeback.