Aldo Sessa is well known in Latin America for his photography of his native Argentina. Now in his seventies and with over thirty books to his credit, he is still not widely known in the US. The exhibit at Throckmorton Fine Art is a welcome effort to bring his work to a wider audience.
While reflection can refer to both the exterior optical phenomenon of light bouncing off a surface, it is also the interior mental process of thoughtful recollection of what has been experienced. This particular selection of images presents a survey of Sessa’s continuing – and changing – response to New York City as a visitor over the past two decades. Encompassing twenty-seven pigment prints ranging in size from 16×20 to 38×45, the majority on view are in black & white with most of those in color exhibiting such a muted palette that they could almost pass for monochromatic. The style varies from formal design to more spontaneous street shots. The subject, however, remains the city. Its inhabitants are subordinate; when shown, they often appear in silhouette or as shadows.
The formal approach is most evident in the images of the structures: the Brooklyn Bridge (2012), the Flatiron Building (2010) and the Guggenheim (1990). Subjects are often revisited and elements repeated. The Chrysler Building is a case in point: Its spire is centered formally in three images from 1991 and 2010. However, the building also figures in the bilateral symmetry of a reflection from 2008 and in the background of an image featuring strong shadows from 1989. The Statue of Liberty is treated in several images: While acutely massive in a low angle view from her feet (1991), she appears miniscule in the distance in two others (1991, 2013).
Reflections appear in other photographs: some distorted as in the Empire State and Traffic Jam; an intriguingly deceptive one of the Flatiron reflected in a puddle looks at first like a low-angle view until one notices the cigarette butt in the corner. The shadows and silhouettes that appear in other images yield a somewhat otherworldly, almost dreamlike, effect that effectively distances the viewer. Two photos juxtaposing passerby with overlarge posters on Fifth Ave, Two Worlds, Fifth Avenue, presage Natan Dvir’s recent “Coming Soon” show at Anastasia Gallery. Separated by time, both have recorded similar serendipitous juxtapositions.
As with any subject, it takes time to get to know New York City and go beyond the media imagery that colors the first actual physical experience of it. This sampling of Aldo Sessa’s work offers a look at his continuing engagement with New York City and some of the ways his perception of it has changed. His series of images of Tango, Gauchos, Buenos Aires, and still-lifes are featured on his website.