Lightning doesnt strike in the same place twice, so they say. But for New York artist Scott Alger, the electrifying has repeated itself in several formsboth figuratively and very literally. Lightning was a catalyst to his artwork, when, several years ago, he and some friends were doing a photo shoot on the roof of his apartment building and all three were struck by lightning. One of them died, and Alger was temporarily blinded. I just saw white light, he remembers. It was like I had died. After that, he started making pictures to help himself heal, and even produced a piece of artwork to recreate the experience.
His photographsusing lazar, laser-like lights traced over images taken with long, drawn-out exposuresresemble the chaos of an electrical storm. But they also bear sociopolitical messages. Enron was photographed in a jail cell, with dollar signs lazared across the frame. Algers pieces have a strong theatrical element, with a rush of people and activity, usually in a series of four to six images that seem to tell a story. The Comedy of the Tragedy he says is about a girl whose boyfriend falls for another guy. The Tragedy of the Comedy is about a rock star who reaches the pinnacle of fame and commits suicide. The themes are somewhat opaque except for a guy strumming a guitar and later pointing a gun at his head, you might have to fill in the blanks.
Algers compositions look spontaneous because they are full of activity, but actually they are carefully composed. He sketches out the theme first, then positions his modelssome of them actorsto create a dramatic effect. With the aid of assistant Sofia van Leeuwen, he is able to create his amazing lighting effects without darkroom trickery. I like the energy that art creates, he enthuses. That energy is tangibly electric in front of his lens. A painting in the exhibit, completed on a residency in Venice, Italy, has a similar exuberance.
It was another electromagnetic coincidence when he bumped into the curator of a Berlin gallery at a SoHo bar, and the introduction resulted in another photo exhibit running concurrently with the one here. The Galerie Bergstubl is one of the hip new art spots in Germany, and Alger has exhibited extensively in places like Manhattans Andy Warhols Factory, as well as in Venice. Pieces in the Berlin show look at Iraqi society through the eyes of an American.
This exhibit marks the one-year anniversary of the UCA, operated by the Utah Arts Alliance, a local nonprofit arts group. Since last May, the UCA has served as the home for Plan-B Theatre Company rehearsals; Avalon Isle feminist theater; the Brazilian martial art/dance group Capoeria; and Speedpour, a school of bartending showmanship. The shows opening night, May 21, featured performances by the latter two, and spilled into a party at Club Halo. Also hanging is a retrospective of UAA director Derek Dyers photographssome similar in style to Algers, including his Liquid People series with models covered with phosphorescent paint left over from the 2002 Olympics.
Alger met Dyer in Salt Lake Citywhere Alger was raised and attended the University of Utah for undergraduate workbefore doing post-graduate studies at NYU. Alger is on the advisory board of the UAA, and is as excited about its work as he is about his own. I wanted Utah to have an interesting art scene, Alger said, and if we all add something, we can make a difference. Scott Alger Utah Center for the Arts 2191 S. 300 West Through July 23 651-3937