In organizing the project, Pujol made a
key decision on how to best communicate with viewers. Dressed in a
black robe, he appears in 16 of the 22 images on display at Light Work.
That he’s seen always from the back, not from the front, is purely
intentional; Pujol isn’t inserting himself into the photos. He’s in
costume and playing the role of a guide pondering the final resting
place for thousands of Confederate soldiers.
Placing the guide on cemetery grounds
accomplishes several things. It opens the way for three images showing
Pujol approaching a monument encircled by an iron railing. He stands
about 10 yards away, then much closer and finally right by the railing.
It’s clear that this isn’t a casual walk-around. His movements are
purposeful; they are in no way random. Indeed, we get a sense of the
seriousness he brings to his journey.
Beyond that, the guide’s presence
accentuates the focus on the cemetery’s landscape. He’s looking at not
only gravestones and monuments but also a nearby area inhabited by
massive trees and abundant vegetation. On one level, the trees contrast
with stone and iron, with neatly clipped grass near the graves. On
another, the images influence viewers to think of the trees in a new
light. They aren’t merely in the background; they shape and modify the
landscape. And in a place intended to mourn the dead, the trees and
vegetation grow and grow, evoking the notion of a life force.
In addition, Pujol is clearly interested
in the interplay of images. Small-size photos, like the one depicting a
vertical monument, play off larger images presenting panoramic views.
Various works communicate markedly different moods. In one image, for
example, a darkening sky dominates the piece.
One of the exhibit’s best images shows a
scene at the cemetery’s edge, a place where trees dip down but don’t
quite reach a body of water, the North Lagoon, where trees’ shadows
ride over the water. Meanwhile, the guide stands near the water and
looks over at the trees. There’s a sense of loss, yet it’s also a
moment of peace.
This is a noteworthy photo, but it’s
also a fragment, part of an exhibition in which themes emerge in bits
and pieces. Even as Pujol explores a specific location, the Magnolia
Cemetery, he’s considering war and peace, not just in the context of
the Civil War but in light of wars being fought today. He’s referencing
customs of mourning, thinking about how we express feelings of mourning
and where we express them. Finally, he’s interested in reclaiming
public space for meditation.
Entrance: The Light Work Gallery will be exhibiting Ernesto Pugol’s cemetery-inspired work through Oct. 23.
For Pujol, this isn’t a new thread in
his work. In the past, he’s taken part in a 12-hour performance
centered on mourning. Similarly, he appeared in costume for a 2007
project situated on several islands in Boston Harbor, playing the role
of an aguador, a water carrier.
Walk # 1 offers an excellent
introduction to Pujol’s work. It includes incisive images, the robe
presented as an item of clothing and several handmade mirrors, each
containing a single written word such as peace or arms or truth. It’s a
challenging show that does a fine job of merging tangible and
The exhibition will be on display at
Light Work, 316 Waverly Ave., through Oct. 23. The gallery is open
Sundays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call