Whimsical Wanderings

Point. Click. Laugh!

At the Jewish Community Center, through May 26.

Reviewed by Brett Leigh Dicks

In capturing everything from the irregular to the illogical, photography has always been well equipped to create enduring moments of irreverence. Scattered across the gallery walls of Santa Barbara’s Jewish Community Center is Point. Click. Laugh!, an exhibition of photographic works by both professional and amateur photographers that reaffirms this perspective. In aligning itself with salon photography, a tradition not as feverishly pursued in America as it is in the rest of the world, the exhibition throws together an eclectic mix of imagery, all of which gravitates toward the central theme of humor.

The appeal of themed exhibitions is often in pushing an idea to its boundaries. The extremes of Point. Click. Laugh! come not only from the subject matter encompassed, but also by coupling invited artists with works selected from juried submissions. From the absurdity of Keith Fishman’s “Nails, Trunks & Footwear” to the irony of Carol DeCanio’s “Street Closed,” work by Santa Barbara photographers is featured prominently. And while there are certainly some worthy presentations from the juried artists in the show, it is undoubtedly the established photographers who solicit the greatest degree of interest and attention.

Through a series of six consecutive images, Duane Michals depicts his witty attempt at mimicking the pyramids. With the ancient structures providing an alluring backdrop, we delight in Michals’s attempt to replicate their form through a pile of stones. The famed Magnum photographer, Elliot Erwitt, is represented via two photographs — “Bratsk, Siberia, USSR, 1967” and “Las Vegas, Nevada, 1954.” The former might be the better known of the two, but it is the latter that resonates. In it, an elderly casino patron faces off with a slot machine masquerading as a cowboy — with a drawn gun as the gaming lever.

No worthy exhibition is complete without one special moment of enlightenment, and for me that came from Dennis Chalkin. Both “Man Working” and “Evolution?” incongruously celebrate the theme of the show, and do so with thought and charm. Its heady collision of styles, matter, and presentation endows this exhibition with true eccentricity. While some of the inclusions are less carefully considered than others, the highlights of this show ensure that there are sufficient causes for mirth. But my warmest smile undoubtedly came from simply seeing a salon-style exhibition flourishing here in Santa Barbara.

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