Willamette Week Review of Brad Carlile's "Tempus Incognitus"

Reviewed by Richard Speer on .
Best Art Photography show of 2011 in Portland
Best photography: Brad Carlile’s Tempus Incognitus at the Independent took us on a tour of brightly colored hotel rooms, rendered in eerie long exposures.
Rating: 5.0

Ran by Brad Carlile
This month, two local artists wrestle with divergent but equally mythic conceptions of the great American road. In Tempus Incognitus, photographer Brad Carlile’s striking exhibition at Eva Lake’s new popup, the Independent, the artist conjures a psychedelic nightmare of corporate hotels across the country. Carlile takes photos inside hotel rooms using slide film in multiple exposures that last from a scant 1/500 of a second to a languid 96 seconds. He keeps his camera on a tripod and exposes film throughout the day, which yields fantastical effects, superimposing wildly varying lighting conditions onto the same frame. As the hues overlap, they produce acidic lime greens and chartreuses, fuchsias and ruby reds in wholly unnatural combinations as light emanates from lamps and television screens and bounces off mirrors and windows.

Except for the occasional rumpled sheet, there is no trace of human life in any of the prints, lending a dissonance between compositional starkness and chromatic oversaturation. The hotels themselves are neither skanky nor swanky; they are the kind of middlebrow pabulum palaces that corporate drones deposit themselves in night after night. They are not going to win any awards for design or decor, but they are conveniently located near the airport and the convention center. Carlile is able to intuit and convey the vulgar neon desperation underneath the banal veneer of contemporary business travel. Where are you, America, and who are you—the Marriott or the Mustang Ranch? The only difference, Carlile suggests, is in the length of your exposure.

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