Thursday, December 1, 2016

UPDATED William Christenberry, 1936 - 2016

William Christenberry, distinguished Southern photographer and one of the nation's pioneer artists and fine art photographers, has died at the age of 80.  

Go here for his obituary from the New York Times.

Go here for the Washington Post's account. 

Go here for the report on NPR.

Go here for a tribute from the New Yorker. 

ArtForum has posted this tribute. 

Other notices and tributes here, from Front Page, and here, from PDNOnline, and also here, also from PDNOnline.   

Some time back, LensCulture posted an interview with Christenberry, here  

Work by Christenberry is currently on display at the Pace/MacGill Gallery in NYC, through January 21st, 2017, go here. 

There will be a major retrospective show of Christenberry's work at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD, opening on December 9th, 2016, and up through March 12th, 2017.

If you can get to Baltimore, this show is a not-to-be-missed event, since it includes a wide range of Christenberry's work both in photography and in other media as well.

The folks at the MCIA describe Christenberry's work as "Drawing on his explorations, recollections and interpretations of Hale County, Alabama, [and balancing]  the beauty, hopefulness and resilience of the deep south against its tensions, pathos and flaws.

"Moving fluidly between painting, photography, sculpture and drawing, the artist weaves a story that is simultaneously celebratory and melancholy, inviting and inhospitable."

Especially important for us today is the inclusion in this show of what the Maryland Institute calls "the charged and rarely exhibited Klan Room Tableau, a dense multimedia installation that is [Christenberry's] response to the Ku Klux Klan and human capacity for hatred and violence." 

The world of fine art photography in the American South feels this grievous loss. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Thomas Sayre at CAM Raleigh

This blog entry is not about Southern photography, specifically (although, unless otherwise specified, the photographs shown here are by Raleigh-based photographer Art Howard) but the subject is so deeply embedded in the history and culture of the American South that I am taking the liberty to include it anyway.

Raleigh has a new Contemporary Art Museum (CAM Raleigh) that is now featuring a major installation of work by Raleigh-based sculptor Thomas Sayre.  

Sayre's work is often religious, in the best sense. 

That is, he has the uncanny ability to identify forms that evoke memory and promise, and to recreate them and then display them in ways that link the two.

Sayre's work thus holds out the possibility that our engagement with the work might hold redemptive promise in the present.

Sayre usually does monumental sculptures either of shining metal or of concrete formed in the earth (see the PBS documentary on him and his work called Earthcaster).

Sometimes, these sculptures are of elemental forms like spheres or cones or hives or gyres (see the image above, by Raleigh's Jimmy Williams, of Sayre's piece installed at the NC Museum of Art). 

Lately, Sayre's work often involves the elemental forms of familiar and utilitarian structures like the piece shown above, drawn from the iconic profile of the Southern tobacco barn (photo above by Raleigh's Bill Russ).  

But once in a while he does pieces for walls. This work is usually about history, and about finding redemption in pain and suffering and the sweat of labor. 

This is the case for White Gold, the installation at CAM Raleigh, up now through January 22nd, 2017. 

White Gold is about cotton, and takes over the large central gallery at CAM, with two enormous murals of cotton fields, three smaller pieces that evoke the patterns of light shining through the cracks in barns, and eighteen earth castings of tire treads, footprints, and other impressions in the earth of cotton fields. 

Sayre's pieces contrast the basic forms and colors of the cotton field at harvest time. 

One wall's mural gives us the long view -- the rows and rows of white balls arrayed symmetrically when the field is seen from afar -- while the other mural immerses us in the tangle of branches that those picking the cotton must move through to reach the white gold so central to the culture and history of the South.

The colors of this work are at the heart of its power -- the white of the cotton,  the black of the shadows thrown by bright sunlight, and the deep red of the muddy earth. 

I'm reminded, as I look at all this red, and its evocation of the blood and sweat and labor that cotton demands, of Joan Didion's claim that "In the South they are convinced that they are capable of having bloodied their land with history."

And so we believe, and so we have.

White Gold has already had broader impact.

It has inspired the contemporary composer D. J. Sparr (see image above) to create …to me from the earth… a new musical composition for soprano, strings, and percussion. 

…to me from the earth… sets to music the poem Mi Historia, by David Dominguez.

Sparr's piece was performed several times this past weekend at CAM Raleigh, featuring featuring vocalist Aundi Marie Moore in collaboration with the North Carolina Symphony and New Music Raleigh.

The musicians started out surrounding the audience, then slowly moved through the crowd, immersing us in sound and the personal narrative of family and labor chronicled in Dominguez' poem, even as Sayre's installation surrounded and immersed us in the images of

Here are some of the words of Dominguez' poem:

My mother crawled through the furrows
and plucked cotton balls that filled
the burlap sack she dragged,
shoulder-slung, through dried-up bolls,
husks, weevils, dirt clods,
and dust that filled the air with thirst.
But when she grew tired,
she slept on her mother’s burlap,
stuffed thick as a mattress,
and Grandma dragged her over the land
where time was told by the setting sun. . . .

History cried out to me from the earth,
in the scream of starling flight,
and pounded at the hulls of seeds to be set free.


At CAM Raleigh, Sayre's installation is paired with another show, this one employing photography, German photographer Gesche Würfel's Oppressive Architecture: Photography and Memories of Nazism in Germany and Slavery in the American South (see image above).

Würfel also attends to the basic forms of structures with, as they say, a history, using photographs to compare and contrast the forms and images of slave quarters in the American South with the buildings that housed prisoners in Nazi Germany's death camps.

All in all, truly powerful work now up at CAM Raleigh, well worth your visit. Also well worth seeking out if it travels to a museum or exhibition space near you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Year of William Eggleston


This is definitely the Year of William Eggleston. 

After his recent show in London at the National Portrait Gallery, and a feature story in the New York Times, now he is featured in a story in W Magazine, with some nice photographs by NYC-based photographer Eric Chakeen (see image above).

Go here for An Afternoon with William Eggleston, Living Icon, by .

Eggleston is also featured in a story -- "William Eggleston's Groundbreaking, Vivid Color Photographs" --on the American Photo website, go here.

The American Photo story celebrates a show that Eggleston is having at his new gallery in NYC -- the David Zwirner Gallery -- up now through December 17th, 2016, go here. 

In addition, Eggleston was the guest of honor at Aperture Foundation's annual benefit gala and photo party, which took place on October 24th at the Edison Ballroom in Manhattan. 

The gala was entitled Dear Bill:An evening of art and entertainment in honor of William Eggleston, go here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Eugene Richards at the Bronx Documentary Center

Honorary Southern Photographer Eugene Richards has a show of work from his Below the Line: Living Poor in America portfolio up now at the new Bronx Documentary Center through November 6th, 2016. 

Images from this body of work were published by Richards in a book of the same name from Consumers Union in 1987, available here.

Richards' work is among the most compelling documentary photography being made these days, and much of his work is made in the American South. 

This includes all the images in this blog post, which are part of the show at the Bronx Documentary Center.

We most recently recently caught up with Richards' work on the occasion of the publication of his most recent book, Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down, (go to our blog post on this book, here). 

That book shows Richards transitioning to color photography. Good to be reminded with this show of his remarkable vision as a B+W photographer with this work chiefly from the 1980's.

For more on Richards, and on the images in the show now up at the Bronx Documentary Center, check out this interview with Richards in the online e-zine Interview Magazine, here. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Eyes on the South -- Catching Up

Photographers featured since mid-August in Jeff Rich's ongoing feature Eyes on the South, for the Oxford American, include the following: 

Mississippi-based photographer Ashley Coleman (see image above), with images from her Cloud of Witnesses portfolio.  

Durham, NC-based photographer Kurney Ramsey (see image above), with images from his Returning portfolio.

Florida-based photographer Benjamin Dimmitt (see image above), with images from his Chassahowitzka Saltwater Intrusion portfolio. 

Alabama-based photographer Jack Deese (see image above), with images from his How to Orient Yourself in the Wilderness portfolio.

Louisville, KY-based photographer Michael Morris (see image above), with images from his portfolio What Survives. 

Charleston-born but New York-based photographer J Henry Fair (see image above), with images from his portfolio Before The Storm: A Photographic Study of America’s Coastline.

Cleveland, MS-based photographer Kim Rushing (see image above), with images from his Parchman portfolio.

More to come, from The Southern Photographer!