Armory Center for the Arts is pleased to present a major exhibition of Southern California street photography from the late 1960s through early 1980s entitled, Street Sight. The exhibition, organized by curator Tim B. Wride, will be on display in the Armory’s Caldwell Gallery from Sunday, June 26 – September 11, 2011. Exhibiting artists will include Adam Bartos, Darryl Curran, Bevan Davies, John Divola, Judy Fiskin, Robbert Flick, Dennis Hopper, Graham Howe, Grant Mudford, Jane O’Neal, Marvin Rand, Seymour Rosen, Ed Ruscha, Julian Wasser, and Terry Wild. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated publication with a scholarly essay by the curator. An opening reception, free and open to the public, will take place on Saturday, June 25, from 7-9pm.
Street Sight takes into account the factors that contributed to the post-war shift in Southern California-based photography from imagery that was picturesque, imageoriented, and anecdotal in nature, to a more conceptually motivated style of representation and object-making that was decisively suburban, process-oriented, and experiential. The artists whose work is included in the exhibition have made a prepositional shift away from the description and distillation of activity and inhabitants that are seen on the street to an emphasis on those elements, extensions, and experiences that are not just of the street, but, of the street that is dominated, defined, and experienced by the automobile.
For artists Robbert Flick and Ed Ruscha, this resulted in a meditative celebration and typology, respectively, of the parking lot. Darryl Curran elevates the conflation of sexually charged imagery with the shapes and icons of gasoline stations into totems of a new potency. The typologies of Bevan Davies, Judy Fiskin, John Divola, and Seymour Rosen overlay economic and architectural accumulations made possible by the car’s fluid access to broad geographies. Jane O’Neal’s saturated color imagery provides the experience of the street from within the car with carnivalesque garishness, while images by Marvin Rand and Julian Wasser use montage and time-exposure strategies to formally distill the motion of the street. Adam Bartos celebrates the two ends of the spectrum of road quality with his cinematic treatment of a freeway overpass and a hillside overlook. And, for Australian transplants Graham Howe and Grant Mudford the traces, boundaries, and borders of streets themselves elicited formal responses that underpin insightful psychological descriptions of both place and medium.
Street Sight is an examination of the quintessentially automobile-centric Southern Californian experience of place. This type of experience is distinguished from a “roadtrip” sensibility in so far as it is predicated on a day-to-day reliance on getting from place to place by car. For those in the region, the car is an indispensable appendage for accessing the flow of daily life; it is the tool through which they understand the spaces and map the environment in which they live. For artists in the region whose interests veered toward their understanding of “place,” this meant a reliance on new ways of contextualizing, cataloguing, codifying and transcribing their experience. Theirs was a pioneering moment that drew from the emergent sensibilities that informed New Topographics, embraced the unbridled nature of their artmaking community, and seamlessly internalized the unique street culture that cemented the disparate geographies of Southern California. Theirs was a new way of seeing, a different mode of experience, and a conceptually charged means of mapping that created a potent, postmodern approach to street photography.
“Street Sight” is on view in the Susan and John Caldwell Gallery at the Armory Center for the Arts, 145 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA, 91103. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Sunday, noon-5pm. $5 suggested donation. Armory members, students, and seniors are free. The Armory is easily accessible from the Gold Line Memorial Park Station in Pasadena. For information about Armory exhibitions and events, please call 626.792.5101 x122. or visit the Armory website at www.armoryarts.org.