Postmasters Gallery is pleased to present AMERICAN , an exhibition of photography and video curated by Patrick Callery. The show opens Saturday, January 6 and continues through Saturday, February 10. The artists involved are Lewis Baltz, Burt Barr, Tim Davis, Danny Hobart, Donald Moffett and Vicky Sambunaris. The theme behind AMERICAN is the melancholic, dark undercurrent of the America landscape and culture. Within a society that is outwardly based on optimism, ambition and pride, many artists of the late 20th century have eloquently lifted the cover of idealism to show us the ironic and disheartening debris left in the wake of such forward momentum. Following the photographs of the Farmer Security Administration which ennobled the plight of the Depression era, the next seminal moment in photography is captured within Robert Frank's The Americans. It is a gritty portrayal of a country in the midst of its post-war ascendence, yet forever riddled with existential contradiction. This haunting work inspired a whole generation of photojournalism. Fast forward to the 1960's and 70's and another movement emerges but now directing the camera at the American landscape. What was to become known as the New Topographical, produced images of America's wastelands, vapid architectural development and cultural iconography. Almost exclusively void of people, the viewer bears witness to the desolate scenes in a resounding silence. To draw a similar parallel to Frank and photojournalism, it could be said that these artists also coverted the more acknowledged utopian photographic dictums of landscape photography such as in the work of Ansel Adams, Edward and Brett Weston and the "f.64" group. Its most known practitioners are Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams, of which we are happy to include here a portfolio of Mr. Baltz from 1977 entitled Nevada. Other artists in this exhibition are of various generations and ideologies, but continue to reveal despondent, satirical or even endearing reflections on subjects mined from deep within the shadowy side of the American psyche.
Following are brief descriptios of every participant
Lewis Baltz is well known as a seminal photographer in the New Topographical genre. Since the early 1970's, he has photographed the space between the urban and suburban. Industrial parks, track house construction sites and littered waste lands have been the major subjects of his work. His landscapes are rough and foreboding, however, in addition to the cultural commentary they provide, he captures a compelling visual richness and complexity. Exhibited in this show is a portfolio of 15 images entitled Nevada, 1977 and an individual image Motel Room, Central California Coast, 1967 . Baltz is California born, now living and working in Paris. He has exhibited extensively in the US, Europe and Asia. His work is in numerous museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, LA MoCA, ICP, New York. He has had a widely traveled retrospective organized by the Des Moines Art Center.
Burt Barr is known primarily as a video/installation artist. On display will be a video projection entitled Jet, 2000. A small projection monitor hanging from the ceiling depicts a blue sky. A tiny lone jet appears from the bottom corner followed by its vapor trail and travels diagonally across the screen. The soundtrack is first the chirping of a cricket which slowly dissolves into the sound of the jets engine. Mr. Barr has shown in the Whitney Biennial, ZKM, Karlsrue, Germany, Patrick Callery Fine Art, Paula Cooper Gallery and in the spring of 2001 at Brent Sikkema Gallery.
Tim Davis is a curious observer of simplicity and the sublime meanings of what is before ones eyes at any given moment. Roadside strip malls, hospitals, parking lots are some among the common environments where he composes ironic picture from details large or small. Mr. Davis has also published two volumes of poetry. He is currently a student in the MFA photography program at Yale University.
Danny Hobart's video/digital work lifts primarily from mainstream film and television. He selects short segments and digitally re-edits them into poignant studies. For this exhibit, Hobart presents The Pleasure Principle. Here he uses footage of River Phoenix from My Own Private Idaho. In a brief clip from the film, Phoenix's character is on the verge of a narcoleptic attack after a failed seduction attempt by an older man in a Mercedes Benz. Hobart remixes and extends his jerky, aloof movements. Specter-like, the man holds open the car door, looming motionless in the distant background. Finally, Phoenix drops out of the frame and the scene fades to black, implying somewhat of a requiem to the late actor.
On first examination Donald Moffett's photographs of blue New York City skies seem audaciously simple. As their meaning reveals itself, a vast number of symbolic references or aesthetic questions arise. Blue implying sadness, the promise and cheer of a beautiful day, the infinity of the sky above us or void surrounding us can all be applied. A contradiction also comes up in the act of documenting something that is without form or the faith that the artist in reality even performed this act at all. Any of this can be seen as optimistic, absurd, despondent, generous. On view will a triptych entitled Lot 070499 (The 4th of July), which depicts the morning, noon and dusk sky of that day in 1999. All of Moffett's photographs in this body of work are unique and not editioned, furthering the depth of this process in that he uses a medium which is endlessly reproducible to make an artwork that is as singular as the moment the shot is captured. Moffett has recently exhibited at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles and next season at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. He has exhibited in the Whitney Biennial and was a founding member of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury.
Vicky Sambunaris photographs stark industrial landscapes containing warehouses and trucking way stations. The vast buildings hug the land, intersecting in the place between earth and sky. Her work certainly relays on relevant content, however, one is struck by the transformation of these imposing, utilitarian structures into minimalist aesthetic forms as empirical as a Donald Judd sculpture. Her subjects, light condition and vantage points are very considered. She uses a 5x7 format view camera which provides for near flawless detail in these exquisite large scale prints. Sambunaris is a recent graduate of Yale University and lives and works in New York and on the road. Shirley Irons For Postmasters ongoing project The Hole in the Floor, artist Shirley Irons will exhibit a painting especially made for viewing from this unusual vantage point. Tirtza Even Also on view will be an interactive CD-rom by Israeli artist Tirtza Even entitled Rural. Patrick Callery, curator Patrick Callery has worked as an art dealer, gallery owner and curator in New York for over ten years.