Sunday, February 28, 2010

HERE. . . and Half Blind

John Gossage's latest book, HERE . . . Half Blind, is a result of his current exhibition at the Rochester Art Center in MN, and an excellent addition to his long list of great books. Commissioned to photograph the city and it surroundings, Gossage has produced another dark yet poetic look at the vernacular American landscape. Much like his previous book, Secrets Of Real Estate, HERE. . .Half Blind continues Gossage's investigation into mid-sized American cities and the larger state of America in the 21st century.

A oversized 12.5"x22.5" inches, the book is printed on newsprint and bundled together with a red ribbon. As always, Gossage surprises and confounds expectations with his design and aesthetic choices. At first, the newsprint seems a disappointing medium for his photographs, but once you learn that the images were also circulated a part of the Post-Bulletin, the local newspaper, the choice has a deeper aesthetic resonance given Gossage's exploration of the American vernacular. Another intriguing detail is the deadpan and somewhat cryptic text that runs along the bottom of the images. Culled from Wikipedia's entry on Rochester, MN, home to the Mayo Clinic among other things, the crowd-sourced monotone of the wikitext refuses to impose meaning on the images and instead frees them for more personal readings and reactions.

Throughout the book and interspersed with his signature images of suburban life are shots of local teenagers and art students. Although his early work does include portraits, the inclusion of portraits is a rarity for Gossage. Given the communal nature of the commission and the dissemination of the images, the portraits are a nice touch and help move the work beyond a purely hermetic and subjective exploration of the landscape. In choosing to photograph teenagers and local art student, Gossage highlights not only the youth than inhabit and shall inherit this shabby, yet beautiful landscape, but the ones who might ultimately transform it in the years to come.

   © John Gossage, All Rights Reserved

In addition to Gossage's work from the book and a series not included in the book, the exhibition includes a collection of postcards from Rochester. The tension between the the more direct postcards and Gossage's subjective exploration sounds intriguing. As the press release states,

As in his previous projects, Gossage makes known the disregarded and seemingly insignificant elements of our environment. Beyond the compelling formal qualities of these photographs, there is an emotional and human component to these images, though in most no individual is visibly present. In his photographs, Gossage reveals somewhat ambiguous and indeterminable information about place, to allow the viewer to ultimately decide upon the significance. The subtlety of this approach is in stark contrast to other images of Rochester, such as in the postcards, which are meant to overtly declare the importance of whatever is presented.

Unfortunately for me, the show is in Minnesota, but it sounds great. As spoiled as I am in New York, there are always shows I wish were a little closer. If are in Minnesota or near Rochester, check out the show. You can order the book directly from the Rochester Art Center here.

© John Gossage, All Rights Reserved