From Solaris Hill

Key West, Florida
November 12, 2004
Used by permission from Margit Bisztray

Leo Gullick at Lucky Street Gallery

When Key West is the subject of a Key West art show, the merry-go-round of images goes something like this: sunset, wispy palm tree, lone boat, hibiscus. Some artists paint nothing but pictures of houses while others stick to wildlife or to the fireworks of flowers against blue sky. With so much obvious beauty, Key West delivers eyeful after eyeful, almost always with pink in it: conch-shell pink, restored cottage pink, shrimp pink. Anyone with talent enough to hold still or creatively interpret a perfect Key West moment almost cannot go wrong.

Photographer Leo Gullick, whose third show, Boatyard Abstractions, opens at Lucky Street Gallery on Nov.18, sees what is beautiful here, but not necessarily expressed in shades of pink. The siren call of Key West's pastels isn't what beckons him. Instead, his eye twitches at the sight of a nicely rusted dent, or parched wood, or how paint sheds in red and blue scabs. While most people struggle to weatherproof, varnish, seal, pressure-wash, sweep, trim and tent our environments faster than nature can claim them, Leo Gullick actually goes looking for nature's toll. He likes the look of ruin. He likes deterioration and rust.

Known for his zoomed-in perspective, Leo Gullick takes his photography to an extreme in this slam-dunk show. As Lucky Street owner Dianne Zolotow puts it, "Three is the magic number for Leo Gullick; this is his best work. His photographs are magic; they make us see his world through an artist's eyes. I'm very excited about watching reactions to his new work"

If you think you know what Key West looks like, take a closer look through this artist's camera, through the abstractions of color he produces in his studio. "The thing I'm photographing, what it actually is, is becoming less important to me," he says. "The subject is more like the bones of a composition, rather than a subject itself-although the number one thing I'm still drawn to is color." Leo Gullick's signature shades include electric green, Chinese jade, turquoise and day-glo yellow. He's like a butterfly drawn to flowers and seems to find them in all the places pink would never be found, like Stock Island boatyards. Even when pink does appear (as it does in one simple composition, kissing bright yellow) it's an in-your-face, punk hairdo pink, not a rosy one.

Many of his photographs could be mistaken for modern paintings. Gone, or at least almost gone, are the footholds in reality, the recognizable pieces (shutter on window, bamboo stalk, banana leaf) permitted in his previous collections. And while the curious, discerning and clever eye (such as a young child's) may see the clues he leaves scattered like crumbs-pine needles, swimming fish, life buoy, rope-most of us will see what looks a lot like a collage or a construction, or the suggestion of a new subject altogether. One image resembles a moth's wing, while another seems to reproduce the veins of a large leaf. This is a great show for sparking conversations, for playing name-the-title, and for trying to see the world again through a young child's non-judgmental eye. Gullick encourages this by not assigning titles to his pieces, only numbers. He doesn't want people to walk in, latch on to a title, and only see what that title will allow. He wants us to see Key West's invisible elements in their effects on the visible.

One could question whether Gullick's work is photography or an abstraction through the medium of photography. The collecting of the compositions takes place with a camera, but the making into art of those compositions happens in the studio, where hours at a time are spent tinkering for the right balance of cyan and magenta in Photoshop. "Why be true to faded old color when I can make something that really jumps?" he asks.

By their linear, color-driven nature, these works do wonders as statements in a room. They seem to want to play off one another, to pick up on each others' dropped horizontals or color fields, to carry on dialogues with one another over the furniture wondering, perhaps, what happened to their context and if, without a mangrove in sight, this can possibly be Key West.