It's been said that those who do not study the past are destined to relive it, but those who study it sometimes seem to relive it as well. Ray Donley's paintings at Gallery Bienvenu hint at Carnival in Venice back in some distant, decadent, possibly Renaissance time, but their tone also reflects a slyly contemporary perspective. Louviere + Vanessa's Folie A Deux show at A Gallery for Fine Photography mixes a romantic Victorian vision with elements of latter 20th century photography as well as conceptual art. The result is a series of light boxes that suggest what characters in a Jules Verne novel might have imagined the photography of the future would look like. What we see are images formed by rows of Super 8 mm filmstrips lit from behind. Each frame of each strip of film contains only a small, unrecognizable bit of the overall image, but seen from a normal viewing distance, they come together in much the way that the tiles in a mosaic come together to form a coherent whole.
The images include a voluptuous lady in a lacy period corset in Rendezvous (pictured), skulls in ancient catacombs, and sailing frigates on stormy seas suggesting the era of Jack London, Alexandre Dumas and Toulouse-Lautrec. It is as if a time-traveling Victorian brought an 8 millimeter movie camera back from a visit to the 20th century, and then, not knowing what it was, used it to make photo-mosaics from filmstrips. But the technical tricks don't end there. For each of these light boxes — dubbed "cinegraphs" by the Bywater-based husband and wife duo — there is a corresponding large format photograph, and if that sounds more normal, it's really not, because each image is printed on a gold- or silver-leaf surface. It is almost too complicated, and all that fancy technique almost serves to obscure a vision that is both alchemical and poetic, a view of an imaginary neo-Victorian parallel universe, though a Bywater-based alternate reality. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Louviere + Vanessa: Folie A Deux
Through Feb. 28
A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., 568-1313; www.agallery.com