CYTHERA PRESS 2001
|The Presence of Night
By Aaron Yassin
The seductive qualities of light and color in the images of Allen Maertz are instantly recognizable. The detail and depth
of the large format prints are stunning. The dense rich saturated color is strange and haunting, and there is a quiet
feeling of beauty with an absence of any human spectator that is unsettling. The success of this work lies in the careful
juxtaposition of a documentary approach to light and color with the very subjective framing of each image.
The entire series of photographs was made at an urban park at night, and the color is the effect of the artificial
industrial lighting which is presented as factual and unaltered. With consideration to the quality of this light Maertz
places his camera in locations that subtly undermine the park as a safe and tranquil place to escape the man-made concrete
jungle that surrounds it. Seemingly familiar scenes become film noir sets in Technicolor. The pastoral forms take on a new
kind of presence. The trees, bushes, staircase, archway, bridge, sky, and scenic vista feel unreal and unnatural. We see
an eerie green sky, a brilliant ominous yellow glow behind a tree, and water more blue than it could ever possibly be. The
expectation of enjoyment and recreation in the articulated natural spaces of the park as a refuge from the tension and
stress of city life is altered. The combination of this factual depiction of light with an intuitive psychological approach
to the cropping of each image has the effect of confusing our assumptions about what is subjective and what is objective.
Nature as it is contextualized in this city park at night is used as the model with which to embrace and question our
transcendental selves. The part of us that longs for the truth and beauty in nature is transfixed by the romantic
sentimentality in these images. However, this feeling is contradicted by the surreal color. This color, accurately
presented and not digitally manipulated, is disturbing as if all is not right in this world. The shift that occurs
between seeing this landscape in the natural light of day and artificial light at night makes us question how secure
we are in what we believe is real. Is this park real? Are these trees real? Is the sky real? The answer is both yes and
no. For in fact what we see here are images that present their own reality.