To see Chris Dunker’s exhibition Industrial Utah at the Utah Arts Alliance Main Street gallery, one must navigate detours, roadblocks, construction signs and the overall commotion of the reconstruction of downtown Salt Lake City. This is an apt setting for Dunker’s photographic essay. As much of old downtown is being razed and a new skyline is taking form, so Dunker—using industrial subject matter—is capturing varying states of flux. Fully functioning or decayed, Dunker’s industrial steel and concrete giants that mark the Utah landscape are an existential metaphor of a continuum of time and progress.
The ephemeral is a concept integral to the nature of art, but the theme often is adopted by artists and employed for its own sake. Dunker’s works represent various phases of temporality. The industrial superstructures that he imbues with a life of their own are either productive, functioning, dormant or dead. Ultimately, like the derelict Geneva Steel images, these entities that were once strong are now feeble, crumbling and left to that all-powerful element that gives life and takes it away, gives substance and destroys it: time.
Everyone is a slave to this passage of time; everything is subject to its law. Dunker photographs structures with organic sensitivity to the powerful force they generate (or once did). Ultimately, their vitality diminishes and becomes less industrious just as a blossom fades after a flourishing Utah spring. Industrial Utah is a reminder, uncanny and lucid, of a process that all existence answers to.
Chris Dunker: Industrial Utah @ Utah Arts Alliance Gallery, 127 S. Main, 801-651-3937, through May 2.