Friday, November 6, 2009

The La Brea Matrix

A project by, Cologne and The Lapis Press, Culver City LA

The Picture
La Brea made photographic history. With the help of German photo-grapher Bernd Becher, the photograph was shown at documenta 6 in Kassel, Germany, as early as 1977. It was also printed in Sally Eauclaire‘s survey The New Color Photography, which was published in 1981 and which helped American color photography achieve its international break-through. The following year, La Brea appeared in Shore‘s photobook Uncommon Places. Thereafter, the photograph began exerting a long-terminfluence as a result, among other things, of Becher‘s work as a teacher at the art academy in Düsseldorf. Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky and other renowned art photographers of the Becher school have all acknowledged the influence of Stephen Shore.

Throughout the world, La Brea has been included in textbooks and surveys of photography. It has become part of the canon and of the collective memory of photography. Christy Lange recently analyzed the deep impact the picture has had even on younger photographers. “In 1975, he photographed an intersection in Los Angeles that I know well, at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Though he took his picture two years before I was born, and none of the stores that appear in it remain today, it is still immediately recognizable to me. This is partly because everything in the photograph, from the stray hose in the immediate foreground to the ‘Walk’ signal in the middle ground, to the houses on the hillside (one of them my parents’ home), are in equal sharp focus.” Christy Lange is not alone in believing that La Brea marks a new concept of landscape imagery, “one in which the details themselves – their density and abundance, rather than the entirety – were intended to be the focal point or subject. Each image is so sharp...” If we are to follow in Stephen Shore‘s footsteps, then we must make photography more complex, see it clearly, and rethink it.

“If I saw something interesting, I didn’t have to make a picture about it. I could let it be somewhere in the picture – it’s not like pointing at something and saying, “Take a look at this”. It’s saying “Take a look at this object I am making.” It’s asking you to savor not something in the world, but to savor the image itself.”

The Project
La Brea, Stephen Shore‘s key photograph of 1975, constitutes the conceptual core of the La Brea Matrix Project. Six art photographers from Germany have accepted an invitation to Los Angeles as part of an artist-in-residence program in 2009 and 2010 to search for photographic points of reference to this iconic picture.
These photographers are
Jens Liebchen (Berlin, born in 1970)
Max Regenberg (Cologne, born in 1951)
Oliver Sieber (Düsseldorf, born in 1966)
Olaf Unverzart (Munich, born in 1972)
Robert Voit (Munich, born in 1969) and
Janko Woltersmann (Hanover, born in 1967).
In their previous work, these eminent photographers have reflected on American New Color photography in extremely different ways.

The goal of the La Brea Matrix Project is by no means just to pay homage to Stephen Shore or to search for traces of his work. A conscious decision has been made to leave the criteria of this project open. The photographers can thus choose to focus, for example, on iconography, semiotics, form, aesthetics and reception history. The project will be implemented in three phases. First, a limited pre-edition will bring together a selection of pre-viously taken photographs that display a reference to Shore‘s seminal work. Second, the photographs taken in Los Angeles will then be presentedin a separate edition. Third, an exhibition and books on the La Brea MatrixProject will be realized.

The La Brea Matrix is a project of, Cologne and The Lapis Press, Culver City.

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