Calle De Luz. Street of Light. By Duane Monczewski. Essay by Elizabeth Kay, edited by Krista Hanley. Andrew Smith Gallery, 2008. 43pp., illustrated throughout, 22x27cm. Images from here.
"Duane Monczewski has spent the last thirty years photographing cities and border towns in Mexico and the United States, including Juárez, Nogales, Taxco, Tijuana, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Tucson, and Santa Fe.
His brilliantly colored photographs of vernacular street architecture capture the whimsical, sensual beauty of quiet neighborhoods, lively storefronts, and quiet side streets.
Inhabitants are nowhere to be seen in these images, but their portals, shops, courtyards, and houses lit by sharp sunlight and intense shadows tell us much about their urban aesthetic.
Monczewski is a photographer of elemental facts: space, color, light, and shadow. Although grounded in the literalism and immediacy of down-to-earth subjects, his photographs are primarily juxtapositions of abstract shapes and geometric patterns infused with a wide spectrum of colors unique to the desert Southwest and Mexico.
Within the solid geometry of cubes, squares, arcs, and rectangles, Monczewski reveals a heterogeneous world of colorful patterns and deteriorating surfaces that give each photograph a satisfying blend of elegant order and open-ended possibilities.
Monczewski’s tightly composed images are comprised of fragments of information isolated from larger experiences. Jumbled together are rickety gates, electric meters, barred windows, word-embellished storefronts, and advertising billboards.
These carefully selected subjects have become slightly disassociated from their surroundings that would otherwise provide more understanding of an actual place. As visual fragments they must stand on their own merit as works of art, while at the same time referring to things that are simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. They come close to being pure acts of seeing. "