American Surfaces Sprüth Magers Cologne september 06 - october 15 2005Overview / Press Release english / deutsch / download press release
-- Stephen Shore
For more than thirty years Stephen Shore's photography has managed to stay relevant, always one step ahead of year-to-year movements in contemporary art.
Central to Shore's oeuvre is the series American Surfaces, first conceived, like the epic series Uncommon Places, as material for an artist-book. Begun on a cross-country drive in 1973 and extended through road trips back and forth across America into the 1990's, American Surfaces locates Shore's idiosyncratic style between the plain documentation of Walker Evans and the pop dead-pan of Andy Warhol. As Shore's Rollei 35 point-and-shoot camera bears witness to the public spaces and technologies of the American exterior, it also seeks out the surfaces of interior life. Images move from road-signage and architecture to the half-eaten sandwiches and mask-like faces of its passing citizens. Unlike Shore's other work, these pictures were sent away and developed as ordinary snapshots in Kodak corporation's New Jersey labs. Refusing to relate to the real in any mystical sense, the banality of the America of surfaces paradoxically gives way to the vivid mysteries of depth and color perception. The impact of the two-dimensional photographic print is maximized as an articulation of American culture itself.
After serving as informal house-photographer in Andy Warhol's factory in the late sixties, Stephen Shore came into international prominence with his celebrated first one-man show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1971 -- the venerable institution's first-ever exhibition of a living photographer. Since then, his work has stood at the forefront of photography's increasingly important relation to contemporary art, pioneering new forms of color photography and conceptualism while preserving an interest in craft and composition integral to the medium since its nineteenth century invention.
Able to cover the same ground as esthetic purveyors of American realism like Robert Frank, William Eggleston and Nan Goldin, Shore simultaneously anticipates the ironic self-critiques of set-piece conceptualists like Jeff Wall and Chris Williams. But in Shore's hands photography refuses to be limited by any ideological or esthetic reductionism, always remaining art in its most wide-open, futurist sense. Stephen Shore, like a new millennium's Eugene Atget, wraps the mysteries of science and the historical world in the mystery of art.