Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts

03
Oct
17

Review: ‘Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines’ at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 23rd June – 8th October 2017

 

Gregory Crewsdon. 'The Haircut' 2014

 

Gregory Crewdson
The Haircut
2014
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian

 

 

End of days

I have written critically and glowingly of Crewdson’s work in the past (see my review of his exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne 2012). With the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines the same elements are extant: life in the back woods of America, the tableaux beautifully staged and presented in large photographic prints throughout the three floors of the expansive spaces of the Photographers’ Gallery, London. And yet there is something particularly “icky”, if I can use that word, about this new body of work. What made me feel this way?

Firstly, I was uncomfortable with the number of naked or half-naked females (compared to men) in the photographs, all looking vulnerable, melancholic and isolated in small, rural town America. This is how Crewdson sees women in the microcosms he creates, women vulnerable in forest and cabin settings, but this incessant observation became/is objectionable to me. These are not powerful, strong, independent women, far from it. These are stateless women who peer endlessly out of windows, or sit on the end of beds looking downcast. It is almost degrading to females that these woman are so passive and objectified. Reinforcing the theme of isolation and desperation is the word “HELP!” painted on the bridge above a naked woman standing on a roadway; reinforcing the feeling of voyeurism is a woman’s bra hanging in a toilet being observed by a man on a pair of skis.

Secondly, compared to the earlier series, the spaces in these new photographs seem to be completely dead. The photographs look handsome enough but they have a very different feel from the previous work. While externally referencing a sense of space and uncertainty present in B grade movies, European and American 19th century landscape paintings (where the human figure is dwarfed by the supposed sublime), and the paintings of Edward Hopper – the spaces in these new works feel closed, locked down and a bit scary. Nothing is real (and never has been) in Crewdson’s work but this time everything seems to be over directed. As my friend Elizabeth Gertsakis observed, “The environmental context is chilling. The palette is extremely cold, there is no warmth at all. The viewer is not welcome, because there is nothing to be welcome to… even for curiosity’s sake. No one is real here – everything is silent.” Or dead. Or lifeless.

The whole series seems apathetic. That is, apathy with extreme effort. While Crewdson observes that the darkness lifted, leading to a reconnection with his artistic process and a period of renewal and intense creativity, this work is clearly at the end of something. As Elizabeth comments, “An invisible wall has come down here…. and there is absolutely no entry. This body of work is so much more pervy because it is so obvious and wooden. The camera here is well and truly in the mortuary and the photographer is the undertaker as well as the man who makes dead faces look ‘human’.” But he doesn’t make them human, and there’s the rub. Which all begs the question: where is this work going?

While Crewdson continues to move down a referential and associative path, the work fails to progress conceptually even as the work ultimately stagnates, both visually and emotionally. These wooden mise en scène are based on a very tired conceptual methodology, that of the narrative of the B grade movie which, if you have the money, time and willingness to invest in, can seem sufficiently sophisticated. Of course, buyers want to keep buying a signatory technique or idea that is easily recognisable and this adds to the cachet of the art… but as a critic you have to ask where the work is going, if an artist keeps repeating the same thing over and over and over again in slightly different contexts. Imagine if Degas had kept painting ballet dancers using the same lighting, the same perspective, the same colour palette, the same psychological investigation painting after painting… what we would be saying about the resulting work. Sure, there is great technical proficiency contained in Crewdson’s work, but is he pushing the work anywhere more interesting? And the simple answer to that question is, no he isn’t. No wonder he has been having a tough time reconnecting with his artistic process.

Marcus

.
All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan, The Photographers’ Gallery and the artist. Please observe that there are reflections in the installation photographs of the surrounding gallery.

 

 

“It was deep in the forests of Becket, Massachusetts that I finally felt darkness lift, experienced a reconnection with my artistic process, and moved into a period of renewal and intense creativity.”

.
Gregory Crewdson

 

 

Room 1

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Woman at Sink 2014

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Woman in Parked Car 2014

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

 

Installation views of Room 1 of Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'The Basement' 2014

 

Gregory Crewdson
The Basement
2014
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian

 

 

This is the first UK exhibition of Cathedral of the Pines, a new body of work by acclaimed American artist Gregory Crewdson, and it is also the first time The Photographers’ Gallery has devoted all three of its gallery spaces to one artist.

With this series, produced between 2013 and 2014, Crewdson departs from his interest in uncanny suburban subjects and explores human relations within more natural environments. In images that recall nineteenth-century American and European paintings, Crewdson photographs figures posing within the small rural town of Becket, Massachusetts, and its vast surrounding forests, including the actual trail from which the series takes its title. Interior scenes charged with ambiguous narratives probe tensions between human connection and separation, intimacy and isolation.

Crewdson describes this project as ‘his most personal’, venturing to retrieve in the remote setting of the forest, a reminiscence of his childhood. The images in Cathedral of the Pines, located in the dystopian landscape of the anxious American imagination, create atmospheric scenes, many featuring local residents, and for the first time in Crewdson’s work, friends and family. In Woman at Sink, a woman pauses from her domestic chores, lost in thought. In Pickup Truck, Crewdson shows a nude couple in the flatbed of a truck in a dense forest – the woman seated, the man turned away in repose. Crewdson situates his disconsolate subjects in familiar settings, yet their cryptic actions – standing still in the snow, or nude on a riverbank – hint at invisible challenges. Precisely what these challenges are, and what fate awaits these anonymous figures, are left to the viewer’s imagination.

Crewdson’s careful crafting of visual suspense conjures forebears such as Diane Arbus, Alfred Hitchcock, and Edward Hopper, as well as the influence of Hollywood cinema and directors such as David Lynch. In Cathedral of the Pines, Crewdson’s persistent psychological leitmotifs evolve into intimate figurative dramas. Visually alluring and often deeply disquieting, these tableaux are the result of an intricate production process: For more than twenty years, Crewdson has used the streets and interiors of small-town America as settings for photographic incarnations of the uncanny.

Maintaining his trademark elaborate production processes, Crewdson works with a large crew to produce meticulously staged images with an obsessive attention to detail. Situated between Hollywood cinema and nineteenth-century American and European Romantic landscape painting, these scenes are charged with ambiguous narratives, which prove tensions between human connection and separation, intimacy and isolation.

Text from The Photographers’ Gallery website and wall text

 

Room 2

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. The VW Bus 2013

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Pregnant Woman on Porch 2013

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Father and Son 2013

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. The Ice Hut 2014

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Sisters 2014

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Sisters 2014 (detail)

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. The Disturbance 2014 (detail below)

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

 

Installation views of Room 2 of Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'The Disturbance' 2014

 

Gregory Crewdson
The Disturbance
2014
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian

 

Room 3

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Woman on Road 2014

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

 

Installation views of Room 3 of Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 

 

The Photographers Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street
London
W1F 7LW

Opening hours:
Mon – Sat: 10.00 – 18.00
Thu: 10.00 – 20.00 during exhibitions
Sun: 11.00 – 18.00

The Photographers’ Gallery website

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02
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Picturing the Landscape’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 7th October 2012

Curator: Brett Abbott

 

 

 

Francis Frith (English, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor, From the East
1857
Albumen silver print
11.6 x 16.2cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

“Hence the photographer’s most important and likewise most difficult task is not learning to manage his camera, or to develop, or to print. It is learning to see photographically.”

.
Edward Weston. The Complete Photographer. January 20, 1943

 

 

Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Sir John Frederick William Herschel (British, 1792-1871) 'Valley of the Saltina near Brieg at Entrance of the Simplon' 1821

 

Sir John Frederick William Herschel (British, 1792-1871)
Valley of the Saltina near Brieg at Entrance of the Simplon
1821
Graphite drawing made with the aid of a camera lucida
19.7 × 29.7cm (7 3/4 × 11 11/16 in.)
Gift of the Graham and Susan Nash Collection
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

John Beasly Greene
 (American, 1832-1856)
Thebes, Village of Ghezireh
1853-1854
Salted paper print from a waxed paper negative
9 1/8 x 12 inches
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

John Greene was an archaeologist, the well-to-do son of a banker from Boston who lived in Paris, and a photographer. By 1853 the twenty-one-year-old Greene had learned to use Le Gray’s waxed-paper process, the technique of choice for traveling Frenchmen. That same year he made the first of two expeditions to Egypt and Nubia, bringing back more than two hundred negatives of monuments and landscapes, some ninety-four of which, printed by Blanquart-Evrard in 1854, comprise the album “Le Nil, monuments, paysages, explorations photographiques par J. B. Greene.” So rare are these albums that we assume that Greene published them at his own expense. On his second trip, in 1854-55, he not only photographed but also excavated, especially at Medinet-Habou. During an archaeological and photographic expedition to Algeria the following winter, this exceptionally talented young man died of an undisclosed illness.

Greene’s Egyptian landscapes are startlingly barren. Coalescing from large, softly nuanced tonal planes, the views seem to shimmer above the page almost to the point of evaporating, like distant desert mirages. Generally, Greene placed the geological or archeological structure of these pictures at a distance, surrounded by sand and sky. This, the most minimal of his visions, sums up the Egyptian landscape. Stretching between the great river and the endless expanse of sky, and between the great river and the desert, is a thin band of fertile earth – the ligament of life that gave rise to a great civilisation. That the picture functions like a diagram may owe to Greene’s knowledge of hieroglyphics; the Egyptian pictograph for “country” is a flat, floating disk, hardly more than a horizontal line.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Dr Samuel A. Bemis (American, 1793-1881) 'View within Crawford Notch, New Hampshire' c. 1840

 

Dr Samuel A. Bemis (American, 1793-1881)
View within Crawford Notch, New Hampshire
c. 1840
Daguerreotype
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Boston dentist Samuel Bemis, one of the first Americans to use a daguerreotype outfit successfully, practiced photography during his summer months in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. His landscape views of the area are the earliest surviving American photographs to depict untamed nature. Here he depicts a scene of rugged beauty.

An innovative amateur, Bemis was not a masterful technician of the complicated daguerreotype process. The dark tone of the sky and the light areas along the slope of the mountain indicate inadequate processing of the daguerreotype plate.

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879) 'Fontainebleau' 1854

 

Charles Marville (French, 1813-1879)
Fontainebleau
1854
Salted paper print
15.9 × 21.3 cm (6 1/4 × 8 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Francis Frith (English, 1822-1898) 'The Pyramids of Dashour' 1856-1857

 

Francis Frith (English, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dashour
1856-1857
Albumen silver print
6.8 × 6.5cm (2 11/16 × 2 9/16 in.)
Gift of Weston J. and Mary M. Naef
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Francis Frith (English, 1822-1898) 'The Pyramids of Dahshoor, From the East' 1857

 

Francis Frith (English, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor, From the East
1857
Albumen silver print
37.6 × 48.4 cm (14 13/16 × 19 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Sugar Pine Cones
Negative 1925-1930; print 1931-1932
Gelatin silver print
11.6 x 16.2cm
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Kelp on Tide Pool, Point Lobos
1939
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Rather than depicting a traditionally picturesque vista or capturing accurate perspective, photographers of the 20th century began to explore the various but particularly photographic ways that the natural world could be seen through the camera lens. Often this led to spatial experimentation. Taken at Point Lobos in California, this image by Edward Weston plays with the perception, and misperception, of space. The photographer cropped his photograph of a tide pool to show kelp puncturing the water’s surface in the foreground, while in the upper register an underwater landscape appears simultaneously near and far.

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) [Detroit] 1941

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
[Detroit]
1941
Gelatin silver print
8.1 × 11.4cm (3 3/16 × 4 1/2 in.)
© Estate of Harry Callahan
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Callahan referred to this photograph, made shortly after an inspiring encounter with Ansel Adams, as “my first good picture.” Unlike Adams’s dramatic landscapes, Callahan’s composition focuses on an overlooked pedestrian setting in his native Detroit. Raising the horizon line, the artist achieved a delicate, calligraphic interplay among the reeds and telephone poles and their reflections across the surface of a bog.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Point Lobos Tide Pool' 1957

 

Wyn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Point Lobos Tide Pool
1957
Gelatin silver print
19.1 × 24.1cm (7 1/2 × 9 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

In Focus: Picturing Landscape, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, May 22 – October 7, 2012, offers a rich trove of landscape photography from some of the most innovative photographers in the genre. Drawn exclusively from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition brings together the work of twenty photographers, spanning the medium from the mid-1800s to the current decade, including Ansel Adams, Robert Adams, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Imogen Cunningham, William Garnett, John Beasly Greene, Eliot Porter, Clifford Ross, Toshio Shibata and Edward Weston.

“The range of photographs chosen for this exhibition were selected from hundreds of extraordinary landscape works in the Getty Museum’s photography collection with an eye towards the various ways that photographers have responded to the daunting challenge of depicting the natural landscape photographically,” says Karen Hellman, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition.

Since the invention of the medium, photographers have turned to the landscape as a source of inspiration. Changing artistic movements and continual technical advancements have provided opportunities for camera artists to approach the subject in diverse and imaginative ways. The Getty originally presented In Focus: The Landscape in June 2008, curated by Brett Abbott. Expanding on the first presentation of photographs, this second exhibition on landscape in the Getty Museum’s In Focus series examines how photographers have sought to capture the breadth and perspective of the landscape through a camera lens. The exhibition is organised around three main themes: nineteenth-century technical developments by photographers such as Francis Frith who captured intriguing views of the Egyptian Pyramids in the 1850s; works that show purely photographic approaches such as those by Edward Weston and Harry Callahan; and more recent ways in which photographers have framed the landscape to make environmental and conceptual statements.

One of the earliest works in the exhibition is actually not a photograph but a drawing made by Sir John Frederick Herschel in 1821 with the aid of a camera lucida, an optical device sometimes used as a drawing aid by artists of the period. The exhibition also includes a very early full-plate daguerreotype of a landscape made by Boston dentist Samuel Bemis in 1840. During the first decades of the 20th century, artistic experimentation flourished and tested the boundaries of the genre. Photographers such as Edward Weston and Harry Callahan sought to explore the landscape as abstraction and pure form. In the second half of the 20th century, photographers began to explore the landscape in more socially conscious ways. Eliot Porter devoted himself to publishing work in concert with conservation efforts. Virginia Beahan has delved into the landscape as a site of human history, rather than simply a subject of aesthetic contemplation.

Contemporary artists continue to be inspired by the rich tradition of landscape photography. Also included in the exhibition is a large-scale photograph by Clifford Ross from his 2006 Mountain series, produced from extremely high-resolution digital files in order to make prints that came as close as possible to replicating reality. Several works will be on view for the first time, including a photograph taken in the forest of Fontainebleau, outside of Paris, by Charles Marville in the 1850s, and a photograph from Point Lobos, California, by Wynn Bullock, as well as a work by the Japanese photographer Toshio Shibata acquired with funds from the Getty Museum Photographs Council.

In Focus: Picturing Landscape is the eleventh installation of the ongoing In Focus series of thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection, and includes twenty-two works by twenty photographers.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Toshio Shibata (Japanese, b. 1949) 'Tsuru City, Yamanashi Prefecture' 1989

 

Toshio Shibata (Japanese, b. 1949)
Tsuru City, Yamanashi Prefecture
1989
Gelatin silver print
44.5 × 55.5cm (17 1/2 × 21 7/8 in.)
© Toshio Shibata
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council

 

Virginia Beahan (American, b. 1946) and Laura McPhee (American, b. 1958) 'Apple Orchard, Manzanar Japanese-American Relocation Camp, Owens Valley, California' 1995

 

Virginia Beahan (American, b. 1946) and Laura McPhee (American, b. 1958)
Apple Orchard, Manzanar Japanese-American Relocation Camp, Owens Valley, California
1995
Chromogenic print
75.3 × 95.3cm (29 5/8 × 37 1/2 in.)
© Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee
Gift of Nancy and Bruce Berman

 

 

Here Beahan and McPhee delve into the landscape as a site of human history and conflict. With the High Sierra as a backdrop, rusty remnants of the Manzanar relocation camp, used to detain Japanese Americans during World War II, occupy the foreground. In the middle ground stand the desiccated trunks of an orchard, part of an 1860s settlement that was abandoned after the land’s water was diverted in the 1920s to irrigate Los Angeles. The orchard, in turn, had uprooted a community of Paiute Indians, who had lived there for generations.

 

Virginia Beahan (American, born 1946) and Laura McPhee (American, born 1958) 'Mount Rainier, Washington' 2000

 

Virginia Beahan (American, b. 1946) and Laura McPhee (American, b. 1958)
Mount Rainier, Washington
2000
Chromogenic dye coupler print
75.5 x 96.5cm
© Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Nancy Goliger and Bruce Berman

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006) 'Sandbars, Cape Cod, Massachusetts' 1966

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Sandbars, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
1966
Cibachrome print
34.4 x 51cm
© Estate of William A. Garnett
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Nature and photography have been linked since the inception of the medium. Whether driven by the challenge of capturing the expanse and perspective of a vista or by the myriad possibilities of creating a unique artistic experience, the act of depicting the natural landscape has inspired photographers from the 1800s to the present.

To create this image, photographer William Garnett piloted his plane over sand bars in Cape Cod. In addition to the natural beauty of the ocean, the photographer invites us to explore space and perception in a unique way. The undulating forms of the sandbars play with the boundaries between foreground and background. Changing tones of blue challenge us to know if we look at water, sky, or even a view from outer space.

 

Clifford Ross. 'Mountain IV' 2004

 

Clifford Ross
Mountain IV
2004
Chromogenic colour print
63 x 118 in
© Clifford Ross Studio
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

A persistent aspect of picturing a landscape has been the concept of the ideal. Recent photographers have framed nature not only to emphasize its beauty but also to highlight its unattainability in a modern context.

Photographer Clifford Ross was inspired to create this image of Mount Sopris while on a family holiday. In order to, as the photographer put it, “grab as much of the mountain as [he] possibly could in one shot,” Ross invented a camera, the R1, which exposes 9 x 18 inch aerial film. When processed by hand and scanned, the negatives produce files with a hundred times higher resolution than those made with the average professional digital camera. Yet even though he pursues a near replica of reality, Ross also manipulates the digital file to re-create the landscape as he remembers experiencing it. Viewers have the ability to examine the scene in greater detail than they might even in person.

 

Eliot Porter (American, 1901-1990) 'Aspens and Grass, Elk Mountain Road, New Mexico, October 3, 1972' 1972

 

Eliot Porter (American, 1901-1990)
Aspens and Grass, Elk Mountain Road, New Mexico, October 3, 1972
1972
Dye transfer print
26.2 x 20.6cm
© 1990 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5.30pm
Saturday 10am – 9pm
Sunday 10am – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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09
Jun
10

Exhibition: ‘Paul Graham – a shimmer of possibility’ at Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 16th June 2010

 

Many thankx to Fenna Lampe and the Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam for allowing me to publish the photographs in the post. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Paul Graham. 'Las Vegas, 2005' from the series 'a shimmer of possibility'

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956)
Las Vegas, 2005
2005
From the series a shimmer of possibility
© Paul Graham

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956) 'New Orleans 2004 (Woman Eating)' from the series 'a shimmer of possibility'

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956)
New Orleans 2004 (Woman Eating)
2004
From the series a shimmer of possibility
© Paul Graham

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956) 'New Orleans 2004 (Woman Eating)' from the series 'a shimmer of possibility'

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956)
New Orleans 2004 (Woman Eating)
2004
From the series a shimmer of possibility
© Paul Graham

 

 

a shimmer of possibility is the latest project by influential British photographer Paul Graham. This work was created during Graham’s many travels through the United States since 2002. a shimmer of possibility consists of twelve sequences varying in number: from just a few images to more than ten. Each sequence offers an informal look at the life of ordinary, individual Americans – from a woman eating to a man waiting for the bus. The sequences focus attention on very ordinary things, which Graham has photographed with affection and curiosity.

Each sequence is a short, casual encounter, where we consider for a moment something that attracts our attention. Then life goes on, full of new possibilities. The way Graham presents the diverse sequences in the exhibition is crucial. Instead of being shown in a linear fashion, a sequence fans out over the wall like a cloud. Due to the carefully considered and inventive structure, no viewing direction or predominant hierarchy is imposed on the individual images. The eye of the viewer wanders over the photos, offering the opportunity to make personal connections in an associative manner.

a shimmer of possibility can be seen as the ultimate antithesis of what Henri Cartier-Bresson called ‘the decisive moment’. This French master endeavoured to record exactly those moments where subject matter and formal aspects combined perfectly in a single image. Paul Graham, by contrast, defends how we normally look around us. We move through the world and look from left to right, see something that grabs our attention, move towards it, glance to the side while en route, pass that by and continue on our way. Observation is a never-ending series of ‘non-decisive moments’, full of potential for anyone who is open to see it.”

Text from the Foam website [Online] Cited 06/06/2010 no longer available online

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956) 'California 2006 (Sunny Cup)' from the series 'a shimmer of possibility'

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956)
California 2006 (Sunny Cup)
2006
From the series a shimmer of possibility
© Paul Graham

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956) 'New Orleans 2005 (Cajun Corner)' from the series 'a shimmer of possibility'

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956)
New Orleans 2005 (Cajun Corner)
2005
From the series a shimmer of possibility
© Paul Graham

 

 

Graham walked the streets of residential neighbourhoods in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana, and the sidewalks of New Orleans, Las Vegas, and New York, and when he encountered someone who caught his eye, he photographed them: an older woman retrieving her mail; a young man and woman playing basketball at dusk; a couple returning from the supermarket. Graham followed people navigating their way through crowded city sidewalks, and tracked and photographed lone figures crossing a busy roadway, unaware of the camera.

Reviewing several trips’ worth of photographs on the large, flat screen of his computer, Graham realised that the more or less randomly gathered pictures could be united into multipart works. As in a poem, where language and rhythm organise words, lines, and stanzas into an imaginative interpretation of a subject, Graham’s imposed yet open-ended structures imply – through close-ups, crosscutting, and juxtapositions of people and nature-specific narratives and overarching ideas. Images of people placed in tandem with other people and with nature suggest the flow of life, pointing to the unknown and the possibility of change, with nature acting as a balm, whether as raindrops, trees silhouetted against a burning sunset, or the bright green grass on a highway meridian.

In his reconstruction of the world in pictures, Graham describes an America at odds with itself, filled with contradictions and inconsistencies. Yet, through the gloom, the small felicities of life peek through. Fluid, filled with desire, and marked by extremes, his view is what the late curator, critic, and photographer John Szarkowski called, in another context, a “just metaphor” for our times.

Text from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) website [Online] Cited 14/08/2019

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956) 'Pittsburgh 2004 (Lawnmower Man)' from the series 'a shimmer of possibility'

 

Paul Graham (English, b. 1956)
Pittsburgh 2004 (Lawnmower Man)
2004
From the series a shimmer of possibility
© Paul Graham

 

 

Inspired by Chekhov’s short stories – and by his own contagious joy in the book form – photographer Paul Graham has created A Shimmer of Possibility, comprised of 12 individual books, each a photographic short story of everyday life. Some are simple and linear – a man smokes a cigarette while he waits for a bus in Las Vegas, or the camera tracks an autumn walk in Boston. Some entwine two, three or four scenes – while a couple carry their shopping home in Texas, a small child dances with a plastic bag in a garden. Some watch a quiet narrative break unexpectedly into a sublime moment – as a man cuts the grass in Pittsburgh it begins to rain, until the low sun breaks through and illuminates each drop. Graham’s filmic haikus shun any forceful summation or tidy packaging. Instead, they create the impression of life flowing around and past us while we stand and stare, and make it hard not to share the artist’s quiet astonishment with its beauty and grace. The 12 books gathered here are identical in trim size, but vary in length from just a single photograph to 60 pages of images made at one street corner.

Text from the Mack website [Online] Cited 14/08/2019

 

 

a shimmer of possibility by Paul Graham
12 volumes
376 pages, 167 colour plates
24.2 cm x 31.8 cm
12 cloth covered hardbacks
Limited edition of 1,000 sets
MACK
ISBN: 9783865214836
Publication date: October 2007

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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