One of Hans Aarsman’s many insights into photography is that many people want photographs to imitate paintings. Aarsman was thinking about photographs of beautiful landscapes, or people on the deck of a boat. If you were to compare Mark Hartman’s series “Untitled Billboards” to painting, though, it would be something more like the Abstract Expressionists: his photographs make abstract forms out of the colorful scraps left behind by advertisements. There’s a nice tension between the flatness of photographs and the very slight three-dimensionality that the different billboard layers. It seems possible that the photos are digitally altered, but how would that really change things anyway? If there is anything digital here, it’s pretty subtle.
Hartman works as a commercial photographer, so he knows all the little tricks to making things look commercially appealing. Still, in his personal work he’s found some very compelling subjects. Some of the images in his series of photos shot in Panama practically leap off the screen. Between these lively photographs and the colorful billboard abstractions, he’s shown a range of work which we’ll be keeping an eye on.