“Grammar”: A Q&A with Professor and Artist Matthew Gamber

In this Q&A, Matthew Gamber, Assistant Professor for the Visual Arts Department at Holy Cross,  discusses his decade-long project and how students, faculty, and staff at Holy Cross have responded to the exhibition. “Grammar” runs through February 27 at the Cantor Art Gallery.

Photo by Tom Rettig

Photo by Tom Rettig

 What would you say was your inspiration for this exhibition? 

This exhibition is a survey of artwork I’ve made over the last decade. This exhibition was a rare opportunity to display past photography projects in one gallery. Even all of the projects are realized in different media, there is a conceptual uniformity–linking ideas about photography and its relationship to perception, history, and language. Roger Hankins (director for the Cantor Art Gallery) and I conceptualized the exhibition as a book-on-the-wall, where the artwork is integrated in a way it might appear in a page layout.

You describe your project as a “response to changing syntax throughout the history of photography.” What are some of the ways your exhibition approaches this “changing syntax”? 

William Ivins noted that representational photography (in comparison to other print media) is defined by its apparent lack of syntax–a set a marks made by the interpreter’s hand, which characterized all previous methods of visual reproductive media. When he made this observation, photography was seen as a vehicle for direct representation since the images it produced were created by mechanical means, and was therefore more objective. However, photography’s syntax is larger, and more encompassing, involving the technology (along with the culture and economy) in which its images are made. Each camera type and printing process distorts the data it records in identifiable ways. This exhibition, in part, is about emphasizing the particular syntax of different photographic media as a space for creative expression.

How do you wish viewers to respond to this project? Should they go into the exhibition with any sort of expectation or should they prepare themselves in any way?

My hope is that viewers will leave with a heightened awareness about how we use photography for communication–utilizing it for not only documentation, but also for misdirection and humor, as well as knowledge creation and myth making.

How have viewers responded to the exhibition thus far?

The response has been positive, with great feedback has from faculty, staff, and students. It’s been nice to hear unexpected comments in conversation, often in passing between classes. While a full understanding of conceptual overview of the show requires careful reading, there is a lot of area for the casual viewer to interact.

Learn more about Matthew Gamber’s exhibition in his recent interview with the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

The Cantor Art Gallery is located in O’Kane Hall, 1st Floor, College of the Holy Cross, One College Street, Worcester, Mass., 01610. Hours are Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday noon – 5 p.m. For additional information please call 508-793-3356 or visit the Gallery’s website.

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