Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Robert Adams' 'Summer Nights, Walking'

"Christine's favorite," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Saw & loved this show a couple of weeks ago with Christine at the Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea. I won't be writing about it. But I think you should see it if you can. Adams is one of the great masters -- his pictures seem at 1st austere, understated -- until they take your breath away.

Here's a short review from the New Yorker by Vince Aletti.

Here's more info on the show.


Chris Bonney said...

I am so happy that Adams saw fit to present his work in something less than "super" size.

amgphoto said...

Hey Tim, went to see this the day after I ran into you, and I loved it. I picked up the book a number of years ago, but this show seems to have many photos that weren't in the book.

Anyway the photos were much more intimate than his other photographs. Not sure if it was me (having grown up in a landscape similar to some of these photos), but I got quite a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality than his other New Topography work.

Thanks for telling me about the show, I probably would have totally missed it.

Tim Connor said...

Chris, Even though I already considered Adams a visionary, I confess I experienced a moment of something like disappointment as I walked in & saw all those small B & W prints ranged around at eyeball height. A voice went, 'Oh, so old-fashioned, like our J school portfolio critiques in the 1970s, my god, so earnest, & these will be serious, difficult subjects, how boring.' How wrong. Adams is thoroughly up to date & knows exactly what he's doing. Andrew's word "intimate" is exactly right. You have to move close & study the pictures (BTW see Christine's photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightlypaintedpixels/4383652170/ -- p.s., note her title). And Adams' prints are ravishing. Their intensity would be diminished at large size -- blacks just can't hold that midnight blackness over a large area, e.g.; somehow the play of tones would have been lost too. No, these were all decisions. The show was meant to be B & W; what a crazy assumption so many make that B & W is something these old guys do just because they're used to it. This show needed B & W's inherent abstraction. It's ABOUT B & W in a way & what B & W represents to humans, what the 2 extremes evoke, along with all the myriad tones of gray. And the smallness of the prints also means more pictures can be show together. One of Adams great insights is that reality is much too complicated to be described by just one image; he always went with multiples -- & this show is a journey. The idea that it's too serious or boring -- well, I agree with Andrew it's very much a departure from Adams' New Topography work & meant to be. It's Adams' lyric side. Many of these pictures are as weightless & evanescent as light itself. They describe illumination of unnoticed, unseen places & suddenly you realize they are beautiful. And where the light can't go. That's where the monsters breed.

Tim Connor said...

Sometimes I do tend to write a lot.

But I thought of one more thing & went to look it up. Robert Frost's "I have been one acquainted with the night" popped into my head. The line about "I have walked out past the farthest city light." I looked it up. Here it is. (BTW Adams surely knew this poem, maybe even used it with this work at some point. He was a PHD in English before he became a photog & is one of the greatest writers about photography ever.)

Here's Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain - and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,