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In the epilogue to “Invisible Man,” author Ralph Ellison refers to aspects of African American history as “Old Bad Air.” Antonio McAfee borrows that phrase for the title of his Hamiltonian Gallery show of manipulated vintage photos. The Baltimore artist distorts 19th-century portraits of people of color to suggest how their subjects’ lives were warped by racism and oppression.
Included are several large photos that display various degrees of digital abuse; one nearly abstract image appears in both negative and positive versions. There’s also a full wall of small, deformed pictures, printed on thin acrylic so they curl partly off the wall. This multitude, dignified yet precarious, is the most powerful chapter in McAfee’s history lesson.
Also at Hamiltonian is Rachel Guardiola’s “A Hand Without Horizon Is Taller Than Its Other,” which includes altered video as well as photos. Mostly derived from the artist’s performances, the images illustrate the actions of a fictional “time-traveling surveyor and a horticultural pirate” as they travel “an earth-like planet,” according to the gallery.
In the photos, hot colors and overlapping, close-up images seem to turn Guardiola’s hands into a sort of flora. In this miniature universe, the artist is both the explorer and the explored.
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