"New York Portraits" gallery review
Photos by Leysha Caraballo
Peter Hutton is exactly what you would expect an artist to be: mid-length curly hair, thick rimmed glasses and self-depreciating humor. But most of all, he rejects cultural norms and sees things in ways other people usually wouldn’t. You see, Hutton is an experimental filmmaker, which is a mode of film making that re-evaluates conventions in Hollywood film and explores non-narrative forms, as well as alternatives to traditional narratives or methods of working. In the 1970s and 1980s, he started filming portraits of cities around the world. In silence. In black and white.”New York Portraits” is a three-chapter piece, with each film being around 15 minutes long and being aptly named “Chapter I,” which was filmed in 1979, “Chapter II” from 1981 and the most recent, Chapter III,” which was filmed in 1990. Hutton films America’s most famous city and lays it out 180 degrees around you.
Hutton uses the rules of photography rather than film techniques to make his trips come to life, and he films from an aerial viewpoint, often filming the source of a sound he heard from his window, such as a group of friends playing basketball on a concrete court below him or people walking by on the sidewalk across the street. We are left wondering what the lives of his anonymous subjects are like, and in the end you feel very small. It is very humbling. We know New York City as the “city that never sleeps,” a loud and bustling place where no one has time to stop, and while Hutton’s films obviously capture movement, it is very serene and calming. Even the clip of a man who appears to be passed out and the people around him trying to help is very relaxing despite how frantic the situation must actually have been. However, not all of the clips in the films are of frantic subjects. There are a few images, such as clouds over that famous skyline or water going down a drain that maintain their calm facades, and even enhance them. Who says that silent films that are in black and white have to be boring? Watching this installation is all in all very calming.
“New York Portraits” has been featured in New York’s own Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), as well as several other major museums and reputable film festivals all over the world, and now we are lucky enough to have it on our very own campus. Take advantage of it! If you are feeling stressed, or you just want to view the composition magic that is this gallery, you can find the installation in the Storrs Gallery from now through April 20, excluding Feb. 5-March 1.