Entering Opal Gallery to check out David Knox’s current show This World Below, I was struck by the strong narrative quality of his work. These are photos which suggest stories; these are photos which demand a story be told. This is both good and bad: While Knox’s new works are a departure from his previous Opal show (and the majority of his fine art work, which tends towards photography), they’re also more ephemeral, and less obviously grounded in years of preparation. If the strength of Knox’s landscape work lies in storytelling, his current portrait work is strong because it refuses to tell the entire story.
As with most of David Knox’s fine art, these portraits are framed in richly stained wood boxes, crafted by Knox. The borders of these frames are much larger in relation to his photographs than those used in Sanctify, Knox’s previous Opal Gallery exhibit. Among Opal Gallery’s selection of dark portraits set against white walls, the actual size of these photographs seems to constantly fluctuate; they are alternately overwhelmed and emphasized by their thick borders. Though the effect distracts from the quality of Knox’s portraits, it does help set the mood for this exhibit, emphasizing a somewhat Proustian connection between physical, visual, and emotional memory.
We can extend this metaphor created by the wooden frames and each accompanying photograph. In Knox’s exhibit, New Orleans is a physical and emotional frame for the artists who lived in the city before and after Hurricane Katrina. These visual artists, musicians, and writers (captured by Knox in his basement studio) form the city’s memory.
These portraits are trapped behind chicory stained glass, built into frames of flood-damaged wood. Though taken under natural light using the models’ own clothes and the studio’s furniture, these images are still costumed by Knox’s doctoring of their presentation. It’s an interesting mix of objectivity and romanticism—a good match for the city’s status as both a legendary tourist destination and the permanent home to several hundred thousand.
David Knox’s This World Below will be on view at Opal Gallery through June 2.