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Venice

Cam Slocum’s latest photo-based paintings are brooding, murky scenes of intense isolation that seem both remote and familiar. As usual, his images of violence culled from old UPI newspaper stories hit with a strangely detached horror that is the only outlet possible for outrage made helpless after the fact. Yet when Slocum edits the black-and-white scenes of a racist lynching and a lone woman collapsed in a deserted corridor, detachment quickly gives way to a kind of dumb-struck stare. Within that stare is a feeling of absorption and quietude. It’s a firsthand encounter with the leveling senselessness of death.

Slocum’s own photos of stark bristlecone pine trees have a similar kind of stillness but with a twist. The incredible form of the wind-polished living fossils, thousands of years old, deny death in the vastness of the wilderness. Despite the painting’s suggestion of an aged post card, the skeletal trees invert the series title “Still” into an almost subliminal life affirmation. They are, appearances to the contrary, living still.

In this work Slocum once again uses pointedly second-hand imagery to strike emotionally close to home. Remarkably, he is able to catch us up in ruminations on life as well as death with a striking similarity of means.

Jim Huntington’s irregular hunks of upright stone encircled by smooth sheets of thick copper are strong tactile sculpture that delight in the contrast of materials. Placed on pedestals at eye level, they beg to have their contrasting surfaces, natural colors and dancing forms gone over inch by inch. Though not much over three feet tall, the rough-quarried stone haloed by partial ribbons of patinaed metal have an arresting and resonant presence. (Pence Gallery, 908 Colorado Ave., to Nov. 26.)

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