Cyrilla Mozenter and Philip Perkis — Octave

Review by Anne Murray ·

“understanding” is not linear and has an emotional aspect — Captions— Musings, Philip Perkis

a vocabulary of images emerged that was new to me, yet oddly familiar — Notes on Process, Cyrilla Mozenter

These lines are excerpts from the final pages of Octave, which brings together the works of Cyrilla Mozenter and Philip Perkis in concert. A tribute and witnessing of the lives and works of these two artists who have lived together for decades, Octave pairs several of their works, displaying parallel visions in photography, both as image and documentation of image. As one turns the pages, an underlying dialogue unfolds, or perhaps not a dialogue, but more a gaze as if that of the famous lines of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his trilogy, Airman’s Odyssey, come to life, “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” 

Rarely does one find such an elegant presentation of the parallel paths of visionaries, such as these two have presented here. Art historians often try to reconstruct and piece together moments and visions of artists who lived and worked in the same place, looking towards the same things, or reflecting in the mind’s eye on similar and variable ideas, but this book is groundbreaking in the conscious way that these two artists have decided together how their works should play one against the other in harmonic sequences. 

In the Notes on Process, an essay included in the book, which is by Cyrilla Mozenter, we read about snow, how cold preserves and how in its presence, life is reduced to essentials. In Philip Perkis’ essay, Captions — Musings, we learn how snow melts from the dark light absorption of tree trunks in the sun, which in turn end up watering their own roots. Their reflections on different topics emerge in images. Mozenter’s drawings are photographed and presented as a series of cat shaped heads, ears forming a distinct line in charcoal shapes, organic and ambiguous; these eared shapes present alongside a photo of woods, the base of each tree forming a dark circle where the snow has melted beneath them. 

The sequences in the photographs of the wooded area become more animated when playfully juxtaposed with these cat-like heads, winged creatures, or perhaps as seeds opening up. Their abstraction can lead the viewer down various creative paths of interpretation. Photographs of Mozenter’s large abstract drawings become translations of planes and lines, spatial remembrances, when displayed in conversation with photographs by Perkis of women in an outdoor plaza. One begins to feel they have both visited the same square, brought their own languages to use to document, translate, and perhaps even mitigate the memory of spaces.

Perkis’ photo of the inside view from the back window of a car, eloquently frames a misty landscape enlaced with smudged lines of limbs and roots, these two trees are swaying in a storm. Beside it, a photograph of Mozenter’s drawing of one of these same head-like presences with long pointed ears floats within a misty series of charcoal lines smudged and erased. A memory erupts of untethered balloons carried off to slowly deflate. A photo of Mozenter’s felt inlays, brings to life another one of these shapes, oddly familiar, but unrecognizable in semiotic translation. Nearby, we see a window, which is covered with the wrinkled texture of a sheet draped across the sunlight; it is a natural lightbox. A small rod presents this echoing paper shape, a heart on a stick, which creates a drama in light and silence. 

The intimacy between each of the two artists and their work is of equal measure and intensity, a result of decades of thought, presence, and witnessing of the importance of everything, of potentialities themselves as subjects. There are words here, but they are as secrets, held within the nebulous clouds of images of spiritual beings presented in the gray tonalities. The thoughts of one another are here, too, as if they converse, one image to another, one semiotics simultaneously translated into another, a synchronization and testament to the birth of thoughts themselves. 

This soft cover volume is as gentle veils one overlapping another, as the pages turn. The fine paper, perfect curation of images, and the experimental and introspective texts, form a poetic and insightful kaleidoscope of the overlapping and congruent development of Mozenter and Perkis’ continued research as parallel paths of the quotidian. Here there is honesty, sincerity, and uncloaked humanity just striving to be and to know, to learn, and to grow infinite patterns of uninterrupted thought.


Anne Murray has a MFA and MS Art History, Pratt Institute, NYC. 


Octave, Cyrilla Mozenter and Philip Perkis


Cyrilla Mozenter, born Newark, NJ, resides Stony Point, NY, USA

Philip Perkis, born Boston, MA, resides Stony Point, NY, USA

Publisher: anmoc press (Seoul, Korea, copyright 2020)

Introduction: Cyrilla Mozenter and Philip Perkis; Notes on Process: Cyrilla Mozenter; Captions — Musings: Philip Perkis

Text: English and Korean

Korean translations: Taehee Park and Jeonghyun Lee

Flapped, softcover book, 12″ x 10″, 75 pages, 56 four-color images, edition of 300, printed in Seoul, Korea

Photobook designer: Philip Perkis

Photobook editors: Cyrilla Mozenter and Philip Perkis


Articles & photographs published on PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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