Portentously titled La Historia del Futuro, or "The History of the Future," this stark exhibition of photographs by Michael Berman and Julian Cardona is billed as "focusing on the wild places in the desert southwest and the people crossing these lands at the U.S./Mexico border." Its implicit message — that Mexicans are not only coming, but will keep coming — is fraught with perplexities best left for discussion elsewhere. What we see are stark black-and-white documentary photographs, mostly of Mexicans in dire straits amid landscapes so desolate as to make Death Valley look inviting. Indeed, the threat of death is inescapable as the travelers endure 40-mile marches across blazing circuitous wastelands for the privilege of working at tasks that don't tempt unemployed Americans. Although generally in the social documentary vein of the 1930s WPA (Works Progress Administration) photographers, the drama here is mostly cumulative as images of new wayfarers lighting votive candles in a church yield to panoramas of heat, dust, bones and privation suggesting that vast stretches of our border with Mexico, and those who cross it, occupy the far reaches of Hades, and we can only contemplate with wonder and dread the desperation of those compelled to undertake such ordeals.
A very different approach is on display at the Darkroom, in the Synthesis expo of images derived from alternative photographic processes. Documented here are the psychic states expressed in works like Terry DeRoche's palimpsest blowup of a 1968 Polaroid family portrait with superimposed handwritten commentaries, and Ann Schwab's deadpan-poetic self portrait with thread and botanical specimens (all of which are eloquently complemented by the rather psychodramatic Between Fateful and Forlorn show at the Photo Alliance Gallery through June 5). Unfortunately, this is the Darkroom's final exhibit as this local institution suspends operations this month. It will be missed. — D. Eric Bookhardt
La Historia del Futuro: Photographs by Michael Berman and Julian Cardona
Through June 29
Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, 865-5328; www.tulane.edu/~newcomb/artindex.html
Synthesis: Mixed Media photography
Through June (by appointment)
The Darkroom, 1927 Sophie Wright Place, 522-3211; www.neworleansdarkroom.com