Silver Eye Looks into Gruber's Analytical One

Article excerpt

Though she has worked tirelessly for the past 25 years in the field of fine-art photography, Pittsburgh artist Aaronel deRoy Gruber, at 90, has never had a retrospective of her photographic accomplishments. That is until now.

At Silver Eye Center for Photography on the South Side, the retrospective exhibit "The Analytical Eye: Photographs by Aaronel deRoy Gruber" explores Gruber's creative output during the past two- and-a-half decades.

"It's a well-deserved retrospective," says Silver Eye's former executive director Linda Benedict-Jones, now curator of photography at Carnegie Museum of Art. It was Benedict-Jones who, with independent curator and critic Graham Shearing, pored through thousands of Gruber's photographic images at her Churchill home, East End studio and even at Eric Mendelson's Photo Forum Gallery in Shadyside and the Carnegie Museum of Art to come up with the relatively small sampling that represents the photographer's vast explorations with the medium of photography.

Among the images on display is her best-known photograph -- looking down on a panorama of Pittsburgh, "Downtown Pittsburgh Skyscrapers from Mt. Washington" -- lent to this exhibit by the Carnegie Museum of Art. It's a signature piece that is evidence of the discerning eye of this true artist. But it is just one great image among many.

Benedict-Jones says that perhaps because Gruber is such a dedicated and disciplined artist, and so focused on the present, her exhibits always have been related to one theme or one topic. This exhibit at Silver Eye differs in that it presents an overview of Gruber's work as it has taken shape over time, ultimately revealing her editorial eye, her visually analytical way of assembling information within a photographic frame.

Celebrated for her artistic vision (she counts Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Artist of the Year 1981 among many honors bestowed), Gruber employs photographic processes that range from traditional methods to the latest in digital technology.

She is well known for using unique techniques, such as infrared photography, and many of her prints are chemically toned and hand- painted. For example, "Hydrogenated #1," (2008) shows the artist's ever-present urge to experiment, being a partially hand-colored print with color in all the right places.

That image, though originally captured with a digital camera, is similar to a lot of her earlier work on display in which she favored using infrared film to produce an ethereal quality often identifiable by rose-hued skies and foliage that appears white, as in the panoramic work "Down the Lonely Road" from 1993.

Gruber often chooses the panoramic format and experiments with different cameras and printing methods. …