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JULY 28, 1997:  BLIND SPOT: We were lured in by the artfulness of it all--the crisp black-and-white cover image by Mark Steinmetz, and a list of contributors that included William Eggleston, Michael Stipe, Wim Wenders and Joyce Carol Oates. We applauded its democratic vision to "quality reproduction and the excellent design of never-before-published artwork by photographers of every rank, complemented by warm-hearted discussions between artists, and new fiction by leading creative writers." Wow. That's gotta be cool, right?

Well, kinda. We discovered Blind Spot in its ninth issue, themed "Coming of Age." It seemed a fortuitous discovery, the only issue on the rack, with a disclosed distribution of only 29,000 nationwide. Independently published bi-annually by private citizen extraordinaire Kim Zorn Caputo, the slick photography mag is an ambitious undertaking--a fact at first glance hidden by its decidedly Gen-X feel. (To bring things back into focus, you might recall Caputo's 1992 book and worldwide traveling exhibit, Pictures of Peace, the works of which were auctioned off last April to benefit Human Rights Watch, Inc.)

Blind Spot's commitment to contemporary art for the masses is admirable, and purists should set aside complaints that at times the art of photography takes a backseat to the art of design: text is integrated with image, the Polaroid snapshot is treated with equal production value as a gelatin silver print or rich, full-color portrait, and there seems to be no hierarchy among contributors' professional or amateur status. Unless you recognize the names, you'll be left to your own intuition in deciding which works rank as "professional quality."

This last point, especially, we love. It's a challenge to the viewer to question his own sensibilities, and a quiet expression of faith on the part of the editorial staff that we are all capable of doing so. Blind Spot will not tell you what to like, it only aims to show you what's out there.

So it's no surprise that not all of its images are likable. This arises, in part, from the magazine format's reliance on image alone--images which, because of their obscure or amateurish nature, would benefit from more explanation about the artist or the photograph itself. Our frequent refrain as we leafed through its pages was, "What's the point?" Usually, we really wanted to know, and were left unsatisfied.

Logging on to their website at www.blindspot.com helped. At first, it seemed to suffer the same lack of explanation as the publication, with just the title and a pulsating graphic of a nerve ending or jellyfish or some stellar phenomenon (take your best guess). Finding no instruction, we indulged the temptation to click on its eye, which turned out to be the right thing to do: An array of menu options came into focus, including, "Behind Blind Spot," which offers a brief history and overview of the magazine project.

The cover price is steep at $14, so the website is your best bet if you're so wired. Plus, it gives those of us mired in our obsession with the Information Age the option of comparing back issues and ferreting out contextual insight. (Other web features include an artist roster, a gallery of "special editions," and Spot-sponsored events that you won't be able to attend without a ticket to New York, but which nonetheless flesh out the magazine's identity.)

If you can afford it, Blind Spot's worth your dollar, even when its contents fall short of their idealistic promise. Each bi-annual issue (Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter) focuses attention on some charitable cause or institution: "Coming of Age" recognized a young alternative education project in Harlem, New York, called The Family Academy. The auction of 10 featured Blind Spot works raised not only the token sum of $1,000 for the school, but spread the word about its mission to level the academic playing field for high-risk, inner-city kids by providing a nurturing, year-round educational haven. Created in 1992, Blind Spot is still evolving...and is definitely one to watch.

If you can find it, things to check out in the Spring/Summer issue are text and images offering observations on life's liminal spaces, by German filmmaker Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Until the End of the World); Lois Conner's abstract, black-and-white Lotus series; and eye-popping color portraits of Americana by David LaChapelle. (We couldn't take our eyes off his "McDonald Land.")

"With and Without Gravity," Fall/Winter, Issue No. 10, will be available in November. For submission or subscription information, call (212) 633-1317.

POETRY GALLERY: Those Thursday evening Art Walks downtown have mostly dissipated this summer, but there are still a few die-hard galleries keeping their doors open late for the bravehearted. Bero Gallery, 41 S. Sixth Ave., opens a new show Thursday, July 24, featuring works from poet-photographer-artist collaborations by Camille Bonzani, Samantha Backer, Robin Lauzon, Maggie Goldsten, Renae Lillie, Kore Press, Robert Sidur, Sol Zimmerman, Darren Clark, James Graham and Richard Siken.

Poetry Gallery 3, the third annual exhibit experimenting with the integration of poetic language and photographic imagery, continues through August 30. Summer gallery hours are from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, 7 to 10 p.m. Downtown Saturday Nights, and by appointment. There will be an opening reception next Saturday, August 2; and closing readings by exhibiting poets on Saturday, August 30. Call 792-0313 for more information.

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