When I took my short jaunt to Atlanta, two weeks ago today, it was, ostensibly, to see an exhibit of works by Matthew Pillsbury. It was well worth the effort for that reason alone, but of course the trip proved fortuitous on more than just that one level.
I had seen Pillsbury's work before, black and white photos taken over a long exposure period, sometimes of family and friends in a fixed room, sometimes in public spaces, photos much like the one shown above: Main Staircase, Kunthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2014. This was the first thing I saw when walking through the door into the gallery. And it is stunning. It captures what I love about the artist's work, the contrast of the space and the grand edifice in this case of the works of art made by human hands, shown in conjunction with the blur of human movement, and the struggle of humanity between our heroic struggle to be and create something lasting and permanent combined with the ephemeral nature of our own lives.
But this was only the beginning, for when I turned into the room, I was stunned by the exuberance of color. I love Pillsbury's black and white work, indeed I have a fondness for black and white photography, but the color works seemed to bring an entirely different perspective and dimension to his work
.Although there were more photos of people looking at works of art, and photos of peoples in gardens that seemed almost otherworldly, two photos particularly captured my imagination. The first photo, Morning Rave, Judson Memorial Church, 2014, virtually buzzes with life and energy, and energy that seems to flow off the paper. I love the contrast of the stained glass, the architecture, the joy of the many young people blurred together and moving, a mass of joy, and the sharp contact of the modern electronic equipment in the foreground. In fact, it is almost too busy for me, too jangly to my nerves, but that is its very essence, and its beauty. It seems to capture a sense of the high-speed overstimulated aspect of modern life, and aspect made ever more poignant by its setting within the calming edifice of this church.
This second photo, Grande Palais des Glaces, Paris, 2014 is much more my speed, less jangly and more contemplative, and yet in no way passive. Once again there is the massive structure, but this one is filled with light, with hope with promise, and a fragile permanence, as if we can de defy fate. Once again there is the blur of humanity, almost like a fog, figures occasionally emerging and almost disappearing again as one looks on, reminding us that nothing is permanent, nothing is as it seems, nothing except light and fog, and yes, perhaps hope.
I also looked at many black and white proofs. Two in particular have remained firmly planted in my memory:
This one, Inflating the Balloons, American Museum of Natural History, 2011, once again capture something essential about modern life and culture, about the mix of pop culture, the edifices and structures of society upon which everyday life is built, and both the lasting impact and fleeting nature of every moment. What seems so important in this moment may be lost to the next generation that passes by, and yet each and every moment has its effect on us, and others as we joint the flow, acknowledged and understood or not.
But this is my favorite: Patrice Boissonnas, Monday, December 1, 2008. What appeals to me is the artist captures the sense of the public and the private and the way the artist captures the essence of our inner, intimate worlds, and our relationships with the great world through the glass, or through our eyes and beyond our hearts.
Matthew Pillsbury's work is in the collections of many museums. I have previously seen his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I am sure there are many other places to see his work as well, and aside from the show in Atlanta which ends in 2 weeks, there is currently a show of his work in Vancouver, of different pieces than I saw in Atlanta, which I believe closes at the end of this week. If you find yourself so inclined, I highly recommend seeking out his work and taking a look. The physical presence of the originals is far greater than what is captured in these photos.
All photos courtesy of Jackson Fine Art, here.