New York Times

Art in Review
Published: November 20, 1992

John Divola
Jayne H. Baum Gallery
588 Broadway (near Prince Street)
SoHo Through Nov. 28

John Divola mixes genres in his latest pictures, producing landscapes, seascapes and city scenes that have both the look and the ominous overtones of surveillance photographs. Mr. Divola is showing excerpts from several series in which various subjects, including campers in national parks, dogs in shadowy alleyways and boats at sea, are reduced to tiny figures in the middle of the frame. The grainy black-and-white prints have a lonely, voyeuristic quality, with the subjects, seen from afar, unapproachable and inscrutable.

In an adjacent gallery, Mr. Divola shows work in which he has applied this approach to historical subjects, photographing tourists from a distance at sites like Gettysburg and the Little Bighorn. The places in these pictures, which are printed in color, are remarkable chiefly for the events that took place at them (even the spot at Walden Pond where Thoreau built his cabin is nothing more than a square of stones in the middle of the woods). The tourists, though, cluster around like pilgrims and have made their own marks on the land, from monuments to asphalt sidewalks in the middle of the prairie.

In his black-and-white works, Mr. Divola emphasizes the camera's distance from the subjects; by reducing visitors to minor elements he underscores the transience of the tourists, who go to these places hoping to recapture something of the history that took place there. The black-and-white pictures are concerned with the emotional overtones of space; the color images deal with time.