C. Grimaldis' photography exhibit stays on the surface

Behind Walls

Through Jan. 19 at C. Grimaldis Gallery

Behind Walls, a show featuring the work of six different photographers at C. Grimaldis Gallery, takes exterior walls of buildings as its subject. Its large, beautifully lit photographs compel "us to confront [the walls'] surfaces both ideologically and aesthetically," according to the gallery's statement. This is most evident and effective in Leland Rice's "Berlin Wall" series, shot from the mid-1980s up through 1991.

Rice's "Sex and Crime" (pictured) is the standout of the show. A series of menacing black, silhouette-like figures (one seems to wear a rifle on its back) is painted on the bottom of the wall; feminine white figures with New Wave haircuts peek out from behind them. Above the figures the graffitied motto "I like Beuys" becomes an exquisite joke as the name of Joseph Beuys-one of Germany's seminal and politically charged 20th century artists and pranksters-is crossed out and replaced with its near-homonym, "boys." The overall effect highlights the humor that can blossom within confinement. This one great print would justify a trip to the gallery.

Other images are not as successful. The photographs in Neil Meyerhoff's "Argentina" series could be tourist postcards from Buenos Aires' colorful La Boca neighborhood, and Wim Wenders' "The Pink Building, Havana," likewise, comes across as a National Geographic-style evocation of the colorful and quaint old-world charms of the Cuban capital.

Like Summer 2012, Behind Walls feels like little more than a stopgap measure where Grimaldis uses big-name figures like Wenders (the director of Wings of Desire, among other films) to compensate for a lack of any real curatorial vision. Though it is called Behind Walls, this show rarely gets beneath the surface of its conceit. It is visually rich-washed as the images are in bright colors-but leaves little for the viewer to contemplate once back outside the gallery walls.

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