BERKELEY ART CENTER THE AGILITY PROJECTS
OCTOBER 9â€“ NOVEMBER 22 2015
NEW PHOTOGRAPHY INSPIRED BY THE PAUL SACK COLLECTION
Berkeley Art Center 1275 Walnut Street Berkeley, CA 94709 berkeleyartcenter.org
BERKELEY ART CENTER THE AGILITY PROJECTS
OCTOBER 9â€“ NOVEMBER 22 2015
NEW PHOTOGRAPHY INSPIRED BY THE PAUL SACK COLLECTION
KIRA LYONS As a juror for New Photography Inspired by the Paul Sack Collection, I approached each submission trying to keep the collection’s images in my mind, but leaving room for a departure in considering color images and larger scale works. Each of the artists chosen for the exhibition created a body of work that was unique yet cohesive to the subject. Within the six artists’ works there is a common thread that will lead the viewer through the show, which extends beyond the obvious—creating an ongoing, nuanced interplay in subject matter. In juxtaposing the work of these six artists, Janet Delaney and I intended to create an interesting dialogue, not only about architecture, but also the human intervention and interaction with these spaces using a visual scope that reaches from the Bay Area, across to Europe, the Middle East and back again. Kira Lyons is Director at Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco, CA.
JANET DELANEY The impulse to photograph the built environment has a long history. Some of the earliest photographs made were documents of Roman ruins commissioned by the French government for the Mission Héliographique in 1851. But as we now know, the camera is no longer tied to providing proof. How we depict our surroundings reflects both our abstract thinking about place and the tools we use to make images. Formal images such as the often-ironic photographs of Susan Lynn Smith allow us to wander through them to discover various delightful juxtapositions all offered on the
same plane of focus. The street photography of Ingeborg Gerdes is more like jazz, highlighting fleeting moments from commonplace scenes. That her images are made in an unsentimental Europe adds to their intrigue. Filza Ahmad takes us to Saudi Arabia where just using a camera on the street is suspect. Her quick eye allows us to see unscripted scenes of shrouded women that recall the wrapped walls of Maggie Preston. Preston’s stoic buildings, mysteriously hidden from us, lend a sense of grand foreboding. Toby Kahn’s images of peopled billboards create a humorously post-apocalyptic sensibility while also alluding to the presence and absence referenced in the work of Ahmad and Preston. Nick Lawrence uses the formal approach to document the interior of a warehouse but he is not objective. The way he places his camera and his sensitive use of light enlivens this abandoned space and fills it with quiet emotion. We are awash in images. Everyone is photographing everywhere now. What sets these photographers apart is their sense of intention, their ability to tell a coherent story that falls between poetry and prose. The built environment continues to fascinate us and to provide fertile ground for a wide range of internal and external musing. The record created by these photographers moves from the literal representations of the Mission Héliographique toward the contemporary language of photography. The images in this exhibition record not only a shift in the built environment but also a shift in how we record our experience of it. Janet Delaney is a photographer and educator based in Berkeley, CA.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia I am a Pakistani citizen. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. I was educated in an American school. Working against laws prohibiting photography in public, I have turned an unwelcome lens on an unavailable “home”— photographing as an outsider looking in. I try reaching a deeper understanding of this land from behind the lens in an attempt to reconcile the cultural divide in my identity. With most of its money coming from oil exports to the West, Saudi Arabia begins to look more and more like the West too. The constructed landscape, designer labels in modern shopping malls, fast food, and Safeways that have popped up in the last ten years all imply the effects of globalization that so many developing nations are presently undergoing. Underneath this first impression however, are a people deeply rooted in conservative values of modesty and moderation quite different from ideals of liberty. With selective acceptance of modern ideologies and a strict imposition of religion, Saudi Arabia falls into a unique conversation with itself, its expatriate population, and the rest of the world—unlike that of any other developing nation. As people construct, inhabit and use this architecture for expression (both religious and artistic), visual tensions and cultural ambiguities can be witnessed. The constructed landscape simultaneously becomes symbolic of and contradictory to the existing culture. By connecting the global appearance of its architecture to the values underneath and blurring the line between explicit and illicit, I evaluate the shedding of one kind of uniformity/conformity for another and the implications of this shift for cultural/ individual identity.
Street photography, in particular photographing people in the public space, has been my main interest since I first became a photographer more thanÂ forty years ago. After many explorations of different subjects and approaches throughout the years, I have recently returned to the urban environment with renewed enthusiasm and curiosity. This was in part sparked by working with the digital medium and color, which are both new tools for me. I am fascinated by Berlin. I have visited the city sporadically throughout the years, but only recently has it become something like a second hometown to me and an inspiring place to work. HereÂ I feel safe to walk about in any neighborhood and at any time of the day and I can follow my earliest approach of making the act of photographing a truly everyday activity again.Â On my walks I am always looking for something unusual in an otherwise ordinary environment. Berlin is full of surprise, strange and familiar to me at the same time. I have a heightened sense that I might find something unexpected around the corner at any moment and, if I am lucky, I will recognize and capture it with my camera.
TOBY KAHN Years before ever thinking of being a photographer I knew exactly what I wanted to be: not a fireman, a train engineer or a baseball player, but an architect. I was always building with all kinds of blocks, empty boxes, rocks, dirt and the twigs collected from the droppings of the enormous white oaks and poplar tree that canopied our house. I stumbled onto photography during my second year of college and never looked back. But architectural space and detail have always been woven into the fabric of my subject matter, in fact my very first roll of film was of the demolition of a stately brownstone house on DeKalb Avenue, in the downon-its-luck Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Four decades later images like For Sale, Oakland (2010) and Location, Location, Location (2014) have a much more enigmatic approach to their architectural subjects. They are just as concerned with planes of light and negative space as with the ambiguity of use and disuse of the structures in an evolving urban landscape.
The other four photographs presented here, from my long running Billboard Series, are rooted in a more subversive and skeptical look at advertising and the massive impact of the semiotics of billboards. Some images in the series are studies of the actual architectural structures more than the messages as in Four Stacked Billboards (2010) and Skeletal Billboard & Towers (2013), while Blank Billboard, Snowy Night (2011), shares both a marginal look at the structure and an ironic reference to the lack of substance in the information billboards share. The fourth image, Freeze, was only a slightly jarring discovery when I spotted it in February 2011 in the sky above Times Square. By cropping out the text reference to a specific TV series or movie being advertised (I have no recollection of which), I have distilled the visual message to a more essential image. I had no idea, two years later when I got around to developing the film and printing this image for the first time how the impact of the content would only escalate in power. Now, two years further along, recent events have catapulted this teaser for an entertaining â€œcop action dramaâ€? into a much darker and more loaded symbolism. The fact that billboards are enormous and can be oppressive and intrusive in their impact on the quality of the urban environment, coexists with the fact that we are inured to them and donâ€™t question their existence. By focusing my camera on billboards I hope to question their intentions, value and right to impact our lives. Likewise as I roam the streets of our cities, I am intrigued and sometimes provoked by the accidental play of light, space and haphazard juxtapositions in the chaotic urban landscape.
NICK LAWRENCE When I started photographing this industrial building several years ago I was enthralled with the graffiti that covered the walls both inside and out. I broke into the building like those rebel artists did and identified with them as I photographed. Later I learned that this was formerly an ink factory—the largest West of the Mississippi—and it operated for almost a century. After the building was abandoned, it was discovered by graffiti artists who, over a number of years, covered almost every surface. The break-ins and the art were illegal, which added to the mystique. The building vibrated with the energy of the graffiti. Then this former factory was sold, and before converting it to offices for the new owner’s construction company, local graffiti artists were invited to return and redo all the artwork. It was a celebration of the fact that this had become a virtual graffiti palace. The building and the restored graffiti was open to the public for a few days before it was closed down. The art was to be sandblasted away and the renovation process began.
I continued to photograph as much as I could through the various phases of this building’s transformations. Originally I was interested in how the building was essentially repurposed by artists as a canvas for their art and about the rebelliousness and expression of the creative act— using this abandoned space to make something exciting and new. The art and tags were everywhere—all voices crying out against the system. Much later came the photographs included in the exhibition that show the grit and dirt and layers of spray paint being blasted away. I hated to see the sandblasting begin as it would scrub the walls and destroy all of the art. But what I discovered in many ways was the opposite of what I expected. The construction workers, the plastic covering the windows, the sand, the dust, the noise—they all contributed to a fascinating new imagery as the building continued to be transformed. Through the dust, during the blasting, barely anything was visible except the faint outlines of a pole or maybe a window, or the difficult to perceive shape of a figure. Then as the dust settled I could see that the graffiti was gone and blank walls emerged. Much of the recent history was erased. In it place, the original structure was visible again.
The works in the recent series, Banner, are made in response to changes in the landscape of San Francisco. Changes due, by and large, to the current tech industry boom, a milieu where the word “banner” is just as likely to signify online advertisement, as it is a heraldic flag waving in the wind. The subject matter is the mesh-like tarpaulin material hung at construction sites to hide them from view and contain debris. I am interested in this material because it is meant to be invisible; blank screens cloaking the development-in-progress, to be removed in a grand reveal when the new structures are completed. This material is blank and yet could not be more loaded—to me it symbolizes the “move-along-nothing-to-see-here” attitude that underlies the current explosion of development in San Francisco, and the changes that have followed. Many of these construction sites and extensive home renovations correlate directly with evictions or the indirect pricingout of long-time residents. As the city develops full speed ahead without glancing backwards, these coverings are like flags that represent “Nowhere”. I photograph these shroudlike hangings as a way of cataloging the development, and by isolating them they become monolithic memorials to this moment in time.
SUSAN LYNN SMITH
My photographs depict the relational impact of nature, artifice and human interaction on the places we inhabit. Foraging through the landscape of the ordinary, I am drawn to capturing the simultaneous sense of beauty and unease that can be found in the passing of time. I want to connect the physicality of the present with human and environmental interactions. The places that intrigue me may not immediately suggest a reason to linger, but upon closer examination reveal incongruities. The resulting work investigates the layers of history, both real and imagined, in the created environment. Sometimes the images depict fleeting moments, while other times they document longer-lasting idiosyncrasies. I particularly enjoy making images that imply an impending drama, or intimate one just missed. Collectively, the photographs present a narrative of solitude, mingled with the adventure and humor of encountering the unexpected.
THE PAUL SACK COLLECTION
The Paul Sack Collection of Photography seeks to show the history of photography from its beginnings in the mid 19th century to about 1975 in photographs that each contain somewhere within it an ownable or leasable building. That does not mean that it is a collection of architectural photography or of images of buildings. The structure in the picture could be a small dot on a large landscape or could be the wall behind a portrait. This theme flows from Sack’s career as an investor in real estate. The collection contains approximately 2,800 prints, primarily in black and white. In 1998, Sack gave the approximately 1,000 prints he then owned to the Sack Trust for SFMOMA, a supporting trust which allows the museum to do everything it could do if it owned the prints—exhibit, lend, conserve them; but when the museum is not so using them, they remain with the collection in Sack’s office. Approximately one third of the prints in the collection are from the 19th century, including both salt prints and albumen prints. Some of the photographers from this period include William Henry Fox Talbot, Roger Fenton, Gustave Le Gray, Edouard-Denis Baldus, George Barnard, Samuel Bourne, Francis Frith, Charles Marville, Carlton Watkins, Louis De Clercq, Alexander Gardner, John Hillers, and William Henry Jackson. From the 20th century, there are a number of works by Eugene Atget, Man Ray, Diane Arbus, Robert Adams, Ilse Bing, Brassai, Bill Brandt, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Eikoh Hosoe, Ande Kertesz, Helen Levitt, Daido Moriyama, Alexander Rodchenko, Edward Steichen, Shomei Tomatsu, and Garry Winogrand.
On October 22, 2015 the six artists from the BACâ€™s New Photography exhibition were invited to a personal tour of the collection lead by Paul Sack himself. Photos above were snapped by Ingeborg Gerdes. For more information about the Paul Sack Collection, see Taking Place: Photographs from the Prentice and Paul Sack Collection, published by SFMOMA in 2005.
1. Filza Ahmad Mosque and Sandstorm, Al-Khobar Archival pigment print 11.5" x 17" 2014 $500 (unframed)
7. Ingeborg Gerdes Humboldt Box, Berlin 2014 Archival pigment print 21.75" x 28" 2014 $1000 (unframed) $1500 (framed)
2. Filza Ahmad Mall of Dhahran, Women Leaving Archival pigment print 11.5" x 17" 2015 $500 (unframed)
8. Ingeborg Gerdes Potsdamer Platz, Berlin 2013 Archival pigment print 21.75" x 28" 2013 $1000 (unframed) $1500 (framed)
3. Filza Ahmad Al-Khobar Archival pigment print 11.5" x 17" 2015 $500 (unframed) 4. Filza Ahmad Boys Outside Mosque, Al-Khobar Archival pigment print 11.5" x 17" 2015 $500 (unframed) 5. Filza Ahmad Mall of Dhahran, Women Waiting Archival pigment print 17.75" x 25.75" 2014 $500 (unframed) 6. Filza Ahmad Graffiti, Al-Khobar Archival pigment print 11.5" x 17" 2014 $500 (unframed)
9. Ingeborg Gerdes Charlottenburg, Berlin 2015 Archival pigment print 21.75" x 28" 2015 $1000 (unframed) $1500 (framed) 10. Ingeborg Gerdes Mitte, Berlin 2014 Archival pigment print 21.75" x 28" 2014 $1000 (unframed) $1500 (framed) 11. Ingeborg Gerdes Marienfelde #2, Berlin 2015 Archival pigment print 21.75" x 28" 2015 $1000 (unframed) $1500 (framed) 12. Ingeborg Gerdes Marienfelde, Berlin 2015 Archival pigment print 21.75" x 28" 2015 $1000 (unframed) $1500 (framed)
13. Toby Kahn For Sale, Oakland Black and white silver print 21" x 17.25" 2010 $500 14. Toby Kahn Location, Location, Location, Oakland Black and white silver print 21" x 17.25" 2014 $500 15. Toby Kahn Billboard Tower from Below Black and white silver print 21" x 17.25" 2010 $500 16. Toby Kahn Skeletal Billboard & Towers, from Billboard Series Black and white silver print 9" x 13.5" 2013/15 $500 17. Toby Kahn Freeze, from Billboard Series Black and white silver print 17.25" x 21" 2013/15 $500 18. Toby Kahn Blank Billboard, Snowy Night, from Billboard Series Black and white silver print 17.25" x 21" 2011/13 $500
19. Nick Lawrence Ink Factory Archival pigment print 33.5" x 33.5" 2013 $2600 (framed) 20. Nick Lawrence Ink Factory Archival pigment print 33.5" x 33.5" 2013 $2600 (framed) 21. Nick Lawrence Ink Factory Archival pigment print 33.5" x 33.5" 2013 $2600 (framed) 22. Nick Lawrence Ink Factory Archival pigment print 33.5" x 33.5" 2013 $2600 (framed) 23. Nick Lawrence Ink Factory Archival pigment print 33.5" x 33.5" 2013 $2600 (framed) 24. Nick Lawrence Ink Factory Archival pigment print 33.5" x 33.5" 2013 $2600 (framed)
25. Maggie Preston Missouri at Mariposa Archival pigment print on rag 19" x 24" 2014 $1250 (unframed) $1500 (framed) 26. Maggie Preston Webster at Filbert Archival pigment print on rag 19" x 24" 2015 $1250 (unframed) $1500 (framed)
31. Susan Lynn Smith Untitled (Blue Ridge Parkway) Archival pigment print 21" x 31" 2015 $1100 (framed) 32. Susan Lynn Smith Untitled (Dutchess Mall) Archival pigment print 21" x 31" 2015 $1100 (framed) $650 (unframed)
27. Maggie Preston Fremont at Mission Archival pigment print on rag 19" x 24" 2014 $1250 (unframed) $1500 (framed)
33. Susan Lynn Smith Untitled (Beech Mountain Mini Golf) Archival pigment print 21" x 31" 2015 $1100 (framed) $650 (unframed)
28. Maggie Preston 15th at Lake Archival pigment print on rag 24" x 19" 2015 $1250 (unframed) $1500 (framed)
34. Susan Lynn Smith Untitled (Blue Curtain) Archival pigment print 21" x 31" 2015 $1100 (framed) $650 (unframed)
29. Maggie Preston Jones at Sutter Archival pigment print on rag 24" x 19" 2014 $1250 (unframed) $1500 (framed)
35. Susan Lynn Smith Untitled (Spruce Pine Bench) Archival pigment print 21" x 31" 2015 $1100 (framed) $650 (unframed)
30. Maggie Preston Mission at 21st Archival pigment print on rag 24" x 19" 2015 $1250 (unframed) $1500 (framed)
36. Susan Lynn Smith Untitled (Mitchell Lumber) Archival pigment print 21" x 31" 2015 $1100 (framed) $650 (unframed)
Berkeley Art Center serves the diverse and creative citizens of the greater Bay Area through the presentation of visual art exhibitions and related programs that are relevant, engaging, and inspiring. The Agility Projects is a series of exhibitions and public programs that seeks to engage diverse audiences with new and commissioned art by outstanding emerging artists from the Bay Area. The program provides artists with time, a stipend and support to create new bodies of work that will push their own artistic practices in new directions. For more information, please visit berkeleyartcenter.org. New Photography Inspired by the Paul Sack Collection was would not have been possible without the generous support of Paul Sack. This exhibition was also supported by the City of Berkeley and the members of Berkeley Art Center. BOARD OF DIRECTORS Marianna Stark, President
BAC STAFF Aimee Le Duc, Executive Director
Dennis Markham, Vice-President
Ann Trinca, Programs Manager
Ernest Jolly, Secretary Sally Donnell
BAC Interns Alyson Lee
Published by Berkeley Art Center, 2015 Design by Studio1500 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from Berkeley Art Center.
Published on Nov 4, 2015
Juried exhibition presented at Berkeley Art Center October 9 - November 22, 2015. Featuring artists Filza Ahmad, Ingeborg Gerdes, Toby Kahn,...