PHoTO15: A photography exhibition
NOVEMBER 4 - NOVEMBER 24, 2015
Opening Reception: November 12, 2015, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
I love beauty and darkness, and found both in a former industrial space on Morgan Avenue in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Down the road from Bushwick, it is on the verge of being discovered as the great New York real estate scramble pushes on.
I began this series of still life images because I wanted more control in my photographs, more of my own voice, not chance scenes I came across which anyone could do. I began working indoors, first at home, then in studio spaces to get a rougher feel. I am fascinated by the contrast of traditional items such as porcelain, glass, and shells, with the darker, dilapidated microenvironments of the Morgan Avenue building. Many still life paintings deal with the idea of time and the inability of humans to control its pace. In my images, time has a swifter, darker meaning as many of the buildings where artists have put down roots and produced art are vanishing under real estate pressure. The moment an old building comes down, a slim, gleaming condo rises in its place. Nearly all fall under the category of luxury housing, and it is ironic that in one of the great art centers of the world, artists have a terrible time finding space in which to work. Many neighborhoods once friendly to them like Soho, Chelsea, and Williamsburg have become playgrounds for the rich, driving the creative people who pioneered them out. Whole neighborhoods are in play, the historic moment unstable; the city and its many pressures swirling, in tremendous flux. One fears for the future.
So I stop for a moment and make images. Decay has its own timetable, beyond human control, and a special beauty. Very often we don’t see this because we like things pretty, shiny and store bought. We rarely take time to look at things, really look at things, so miss a lot in this world. Fruit loses ripeness, but shrivels into exquisite shapes. Flowers dry into twisting linear forms. Paint ages into abstract design. City dirt and snow assail and occlude windows. It is a shadow world, real but not quite seen, rich with possibility.
These images are connected by composition and subject to the art of the past, but also about making art among the industrial ruins of latter day Brooklyn. And about creating art in a studio setting, even if that setting is part in the world and part in your mind, half real, greatly imagined.
Near the outset of my current body of work, from which the photos included herein are taken, I had written the following artist's statement to describe what I was attempting to explore with this body of work: I am not opposed to life on principle, I am opposed to what men have made of life. These photos are both the indictment and the antidote.
To date, I cannot come up with a more succinct explanation. Although the project has taken on other dimensions and more specific concerns, this statement endures in my mind as the best summary I can come up with.
Insofar as the selected photos pertain to the theme of the show, which is to explore and perhaps locate the status of film photography in the digital era, I offer that perhaps the need to locate the status of film v. digital is yet another example of the need establish firm ground in an ever-shifting world. My current project is entitled Location (v.) is precisely an attempt to look at the social critique and struggles of previous eras and locate them within the contemporary world. The underlying theme – the antidote – indicated above is specifically the creative act. The moment of self-directed subjectivity. That thiscreative impulse has survived in humankind from the pre-modern era into the digital era to my mind is testament to the notion that perhaps the firm ground in the ever-shifting world is the creative act.
The activity of making pictures, whether with a camera or by drawing and painting, enables me to engage with the forces of the natural world. As part of that ongoing exploration these photographs attempt to integrate natural forms with related imagery from drawing and painting activity.
When clearing my garden last season I could not bear to discard the dead plants and weeds as dictated by neighborhood standards. Instead of placing the garden rubble for curbside pickup, I hoarded it without a clear purpose, in a corner of my already crowded studio along with other dead potted plants and bouquets.
Eventually the dense environment of dried plants began to combine in my vision with the backdrop of drawings and paintings from other natural subjects that were proliferating on the studio walls.
Here are a few of the photographs that resulted. As life was departing the plants, they bent and twisted into new shapes, a variation of their former selves. The shriveled skin of a curled up flower petal or bent grass leaf took on a new beauty. In a space extended and shared by marks and painted strokes they gloried in their “afterlife”. The delicate, leaves, petals and twigs became a record of life passed, not unlike the artist’s documenting marks and images.