The Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to announce the first West Coast solo exhibition of Minnesota photographer Thomas Allen.
Allen's photographs are inspired by his childhood experiences with pop-up books and View-Masters. He begins his process by cutting figures and images out of illustrated pages of old books and vintage fiction novels. Allen then cleverly rearranges and juxtaposes the forms to create three-dimensional scenes. Next, he carefully lights his subjects and photographs the scenes.
When separated from their original stories, the figures take on fresh roles in entirely new situations. Yet they retain their intended purpose of storytelling. Characters and objects originally created as two-dimensional illustrations are raised from their pages and given new life in three-dimensional space. The figures return back to two-dimensional objects, this time in the form of a photograph.
As a director would stage actors, Allen stages his cut-outs in ways that create humor, tension, mystery, and drama. A boxer fights his own shadow in Spar, and in Bookend a gunfighter stands over his recently fallen opponent. Although the characters are freed from the closed pages of books, the books themselves still remain present in each photograph. A ship sails across the curved pages of a dictionary-sized book in Swell. In Cover, a gunman finds safety behind the spine of a book. And in Recover, a worn paperback acts as a life raft to three weathered shipwreck survivors.
The work combines the humor of children's pop-up books, the nostalgia of dime novels, and the drama of the stage. Allen's inventive and evocative photographs capture characters and events in mid-action. And the viewer is left to wonder what will happen next.
Allen received his BFA at Wayne State University in 1991and his MFA at the University of Minnesota in 1996. In 1997 he was awarded the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers, and in 2000 he received a fellowship from the Minnesota State Arts Board. His work has been exhibited throughout the Midwest including the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth, Minnesota, and the Rochester Art Center in Rochester, Minnesota.