Images from the "The Sun Echoed Like a Song" exhibit at Light Work. Credit: Courtesy of Light Work

“The Sun Echoed Like a Song,” Eduardo L. Rivera’s solo exhibit at the Light Work Gallery, focuses intently on his hometown, Phoenix, Arizona. This is not a travelogue project providing images of downtown venues, popular restaurants and tourist attractions.

Rather, the show, with its portfolio of 23 photos, works off of Rivera’s family and community experiences, his perceptions of Phoenix landscapes and local skies. 

And so, the exhibition interprets light in various contexts, presents fragments of everyday scenes, documents neighborhood life. 

The theme of light, or its absence, permeates the show. In one image, a tiny bit of light is surrounded by darkness. In another, the sky is completely lit up; it seems to be on fire. A third photo depicts a corner house in a Phoenix neighborhood, with one person walking down the street. The sun is only a tiny orb. 

And Rivera also shifts inside, shooting a scene in which a man sits at a bar, accompanied by a bottle of beer. A neon sign on a wall promotes a popular beer; the sign is brighter than the rest of the room. 

In addition, there’s an image of a room in a home where a man stands over a lamp set on a table. His face is largely obscured. 

Other photos move in a different direction. A curtain covers a window, mostly keeping out light. In a second photograph, a curtain plays a similar role. There’s a faint image of a person in the corner. 

One of Rivera’s best images documents a nighttime scene: a rusted-out car in the foreground, a building next to it, street lights and buildings in the distance. The work provides a calm, peaceful vision, as it views a city neighborhood in a slower time. 

Elsewhere, the photographer projects everyday interactions in bits and pieces. For example, one photo captures a scene by a doorway. At the center, a small sculpture of an animal, possibly a bear, is on the sidewalk beneath a flower pot. To the right, a hand holding a cigarette is visible but not the rest of the subject. There’s a shadow on the wall. To the left, a door opens partially, and we see only a hand gripping the door.

In another image, a woman holds a cigarette, waiting for someone to light it. That person’s hand, wielding a lighter, can be seen, but the rest of him/her is outside the frame. 

Should these photos be considered surrealistic work? That’s a possibility. At the very least, the images document Rivera’s ability to transform ordinary scenes. 

Images from the “The Sun Echoed Like a Song” exhibit at Light Work. Credit: Courtesy of Light Work

A third group of photographs offer either a glimpse of a neighborhood or portraits. One shot, taken at sunrise, shows a mass of cluttered objects by a garage and then leads a viewer’s eye to the street behind it. A second image views palms in the foreground, a small child behind a fence, and pick-up truck. 

“Joanne at Home” portrays a woman in her house standing by a circular entrance, not far from a cat stretching out. Her connection to Rivera isn’t specified, but it’s clear that he knows her. There’s a similar set-up for “Twist” in which a woman steps around branches. She’s not merely a passer-by. 

“The Sun Echoed Like a Song” showcases the work of a photographer who’s actively building his career. Indeed, Rivera has taken part in solo and group exhibits, received the Magenta Foundation’s Emerging Photographer Award, had his images in publications such as “Aperture” and the “New York Times Magazine.” 

The current show is certainly another step forward. It displays work that’s inventive and incisive, that demonstrates the artist’s ability to conceive and execute a complex project. 

In addition to Rivera’s exhibit in the main gallery, the hallway gallery is displaying images created by winners of the 2023 Light Work grants. These are artists from upstate New York who receive a $3,000 award to assist them in doing their work. 

The 2023 grant recipients include Linda Moses, whose photos depict her elderly parents at home; Amy Kozlowski, creator of images  portraying herself and reflecting on reality and what she imagines in her head; Tahlia Mintz, whose current photos reference the campaign opposing violence against Indigenous women. Each of her photographs at Light Work portray a woman with a bloody handprint across her face; that’s the campaign’s symbol. 

Rivera’s images and those created by the grant winners will be on display through December 15 at Light Work, 316 Waverly Ave. on the Syracuse University campus. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and Saturday. The public is welcome, and there’s no admission charge. 

Finally, Light Work is holding a reception on Thursday, September 14, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The reception will include a special segment, starting at 6:00 p.m., which will designate the hallway gallery as the Jeffrey J. Hoone Gallery. Hoone served Light Work for 41 years, as assistant director, director and executive director. 

For more information, call 315-443-1300 or access 

Carl Mellor covered visual arts for the Syracuse New Times from 1994 through 2019. He continues to write about artists and exhibitions in the Syracuse area.

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