The distant as well as less-distant past resides in the modern present of both sculptor Toni Ross and photographer Jean Pagliuso, whose main subjects in this elegant show seemed to be time itself. Religion and fairy tales, nostalgia and reverence are interwoven in the works of these two women, who traveled together to sacred sites in Egypt, Burma, Cambodia, India, and Mali.
Ross’s presentation was titled “Contained. Unbound,” whereas Pagliuso’s was called “Fragile Remains II,” underscoring the different ways each responded to what they experienced. Classic Greek, Roman, and Etruscan forms prevailed in Ross’s attenuated vessels, Cycladic-inspired sculptures, and reliquary-like boxes, all made of stoneware. Ancient Asian temples and landscapes most influenced Pagliuso’s dreamy gelatin silver prints on mulberry paper depicting Buddhist stupas, African mosques, and other structures. In images such as Step Pyramid (2010), Pagliuso’s use of the 19th-century technique of brushing photos with silver emulsion further adds a sense of time and distance.
Ross gives solidity and grandeur to the past in minimalist ceramic works such as Beloved II (2011) and in forms that pose like worn but immutable architectural columns, while Pagliuso touchingly renders a never-quite-certain world through quiet tricks of perception.
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 108.