Friday, October 5, 2012

Rhona Bitner in the Boston Globe

Rhona Bitner, Grande Ballroom, Detroit, MI, 2008
40" x 40" Color Coupler print
For her ongoing series “Listen,” Rhona Bitner has been taking large ­scale color photographs of sites associated with American popular music: recording studios, concert halls, clubs, and the like. So far she’s photographed more than 200. Seven of her images are on display at the Howard Yezerski Gallery through Oct. 23.

They look great. Unmatted, mounted on aluminum, and at 40 inches by 40 inches, they seem more like windows than images. Some of the places are famous, even legendary, like Electric Lady Studios, in New York, or the Whisky a Go Go, in Los Angeles. What an air of crisp mystery Bitner manages to impart to the Whisky stage, through a combination of harsh light and darkness.

There’s a powerful temptation to say that these pictures sound great, too. There’s a gleam to Bitner’s images that the ear picks up on no less than the eye does. You can almost hear the music that has filled these spaces - this despite the fact, or perhaps because of it, that some are now in such tough shape. Detroit’s Grande Ballroom closed in 1972, and the magnificence of decrepitude is something to see.

Bitner knows the importance of details - the less expected the better. Why shouldn’t there be a Turkish carpet on the parquet floor at Electric Lady? And is that a shopping cart over in the corner of the Birmingham, Ala., club Tuxedo Junction? Yes it is. There are no people in any of these photographs, but mysteries and memories in abundance.

Mark Feeney
Globe Staff
Friday, September 14, 2012

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