Dead men do tell tales. Especially when the bones of the dead men (and women) are neatly arranged in an ossuary or charnel house. One of the better known collections of human remains makes up the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, a testament to how quickly the Black Plague took out a sizable portion of the city's population.
Faced with row upon row of grinning skulls, it's hard not to reflect on the brevity of life. Yet beneath such a macabre surface, Paul Koudounaris is also fascinated by the ossuary's religious and philosophical contexts. He put together a book on the subject; he sought an impressive number of bone houses across four continents, about 70 total, then photographed them and collected their histories. Thanks to Koudounaris' photo exhibition, "The Empire of Death" (which shares a title with his book), you don't have to travel the world to see the bones.
His exhibition opens tomorrow (Saturday, June 2) at the Articulated Gallery, part of the very creepy retail store Loved to Death.
Large-scale images from the book transform the gallery into something of a charnel house itself. Koudounaris also mixes in photographs from his current project, the jewel-bedazzled skeletons that were apparently a thing in the 17th century. We can't be sure, but we think we sense a theme in his work.
"The Empire of Death" opens Saturday, June 2, at 11:30 a.m. (and continues through June 28) at Articulated Gallery at Loved to Death, 1681 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free.