Heather Rasmussen. Untitled (New Orleans, Louisiana, September 10, 2005), 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

by Amy Cavanaugh

Hours: Mon–Wed 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
; Thurs 10:30 a.m.–8 p.m.;
Fri–Sun 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
$18 Adults; $12 Children, Students, Seniors; Children under 12, Free

Matt Keegan, A History of New York, 2011. Artist's book. Courtesy of the artist. D'Amelio Terras, New York.

In Exposure, the fourth show in a series of contemporary work by the Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, Matt Keegan, Katie Paterson, and Heather Rasmussen each explore photography in a different way. While the three photographers present various subjects and themes, their work can be taken together as a way to see how the medium is being used in contemporary art.

Keegan created his work especially for the show, and he looks at the contemporary city by exploring Chicago and New York. He has two pieces on display – “Untitled (Old Bordeaux)” features colorful photographs of Chicago set on a burgundy metal panel. The color of the panel references the color of bridges in the city, while the images depict places like Big Chicks and Marina City, along with generic shots of doors, buildings, and a bookstore. “Untitled (Federal Blue)” is a vertical panel in the color of New York City bridges. Taken together, the two pieces comment on the rhythm city life, and the way things are constantly in flux.

Katie Paterson, History of Darkness (detail), 2010. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist. James Cohen Gallery, New York.

In “History of Darkness,” Katie Paterson turns her lens to space, which she photographs from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. There, she shot deep space from varying light years from Earth, resulting in purely black images. Regardless of the distance from Earth, each image appears exactly the same. The parts of the sky are so many light years away that the images show a time before Earth existed. It makes us think about the universe and our place in it.

Heather Rasmussen’s photographs round out the show. What appear at first to be photographs of whimsical colored blocks are actually darker. Rasmussen is interested in international shipping containers, and she researched accidents involving them. Then she created blocks from colored cardstock to replicate the accidents. Her work comments on how difficult trading can be, and the dangers that go along with it.

The three series are striking for the richness of the images and for the ways each one approaches their subject. Keegan, Paterson, and Rasmussen give us insight into the various approaches photography, and how the medium can be manipulated to turn even the simplest things, like darkness, into subjects worth parsing.

Exposure runs through March 4.

Amy Cavanaugh, CBS Chicago