Three exhibitions highlighting the lesser known work of three important American artists is opening at London’s Photographers Gallery in January. Beat writer William S. Burroughs, Pop art’s best known figure, Andy Warhol and the filmmaker David Lynch all important photographers in their own right. The Photographer’s Gallery, London, has compiled archive material for the exhibitions which run running concurrently.
Taking Shots The Photography of William S. Burroughs 17 Jan – 30 Mar 2014
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Burroughs’ birth, ‘Taking Shots’ will be the first major exhibition of the authors photography ever shown. With such a raging heroin habit for most of his adult life (as alluded to in the exhibition title taken from début novel Junky), it’s a wonder Burroughs made it as far as the typewriter, let alone found the get up and go to pursue other artistic interests. This collection of more than 100 images taken between the 1950s and ’70s shows his remarkable energy, and besides the main body of work there will be examples of his detailed collages, postcards, and a chance to see Towers Open Fire, a short film from 1963 made by the writer’s long-time friend Antony Balch. Burroughs used photography as a research tool, and revealed he used elements from his photography to build up an image of his fictional characters. A fully illustrated catalogue of the exhibition will be available from the gallery’s bookshop.
The exhibition will feature over a 100 works, mainly black and white, many rarely or never before seen. These include vintage photographs, collages and assemblages alongside related ephemera such as postcards, magazine and book covers and adverts used in Burroughs’ pieces. Also included in the space is Towers Open Fire (1963), a short experimental film by Antony Balch influenced by Burroughs’ theories of the image. The title, Taking Shots, refers to photography but also to Burroughs’ well-known heroin addiction and his obsession with firearms.
The photographs exhibited were mainly taken between the early 1950s and 70s in locations including London, Paris, New York and Tangier. Burroughs’ images can be loosely organised into categories including self-portraits, street scenes, intimate domestic interiors, assemblages, construction sites, and portraits of fellow writers and artists, like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Brion Gysin, and friends and lovers.
His photographs have hitherto mainly been used to illustrate critical approaches to his work. Taking Shots repositions them as integral to an understanding of the historical and formal characteristics and concerns of Burroughs’ wider oeuvre. Burroughs used photography partly as a research tool, but also as a medium of aesthetic experimentation. Processed cheaply and treated as disposable items, many of his photographs bear markings and scratches, and most are not titled or dated. The fragmented nature of his photographic oeuvre resists a thematic or chronological layout and is reflective of his nomadic lifestyle and state of mind.
Burroughs was fascinated by, what he believed to be, photography’s ability to disrupt the space-time continuum and to expand the viewer’s perception of the physical world. Using the cut-up technique – visuals cut from different works arranged and shuffled to conceive new connections and meanings between images – Burroughs created complex collages. For him these pieces functioned as a form of time travel, ones in which the camera was used to literally cut pieces from the continuum to then be repositioned and disseminated.
William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) was one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century. Despite his prolific achievements as a novelist, essayist, spoken word performer and painter, Burroughs’ work as a photographer is rarely acknowledged. Coinciding with the centenary of Burroughs’ birth, Taking Shots will be the first exhibition worldwide to focus on Burroughs’ vast photographic oeuvre and offers new and important insights into his artistic and creative processes. Burroughs’ photographs, striking in their self-containment, lack any reference to other practitioners or genres. While they can be gathered into categories of street scenes, still lifes, collage, radio towers, people – his dynamic approach to image making sits outside of any canonical structure.
Taking Shots is curated by Patricia Allmer, Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, and author John Sears.
Andy Warhol Photographs 1976 – 1987 17 Jan – 30 Mar 2014
Andy Warhol’s photography needs little introduction, but this collection focuses on the last decade of the icon’s life, and represents a rare opportunity for UK gallery-goers to enjoy a extensive look at his 8”x10” print portfolio. In 1976 he “divorced” his tape recorder and took up with a new sort, his 35mm camera, and began to take pictures for their own merit rather than as a part of a larger creative process. The youngest (and most alive) of the trio, David Lynch, has a fascination with industry, pollution and decay that crops up in many of his films. More than 80 still images have been curated under the banner The Factory Photographs, taken by Lynch between 1980 and 2000. Printed on silver-gelatin paper, the prints possess a grainy texture that reflect the soot and grime of the scenes depicted.
I told them I didn’t believe in art, that I believed in photography. – Andy Warhol
Despite his fame as a painter, filmmaker and colourist, Andy Warhol’s (1928 – 1987) use of photographic imagery permeates his practice. However, it was only later in his life, when acquainted with the compact cameras of the 1970s that he focused on photography in its own right. Using 35mm black and white film, Warhol carried a camera with him most of the time – taking up to 36 frames a day. Capturing everyday details, people, street scenes, celebrity parties, interiors, cityscapes and signage his subjects all reflect the artist’s characteristic indifference to hierarchy. Warhol’s interest in serial and repeated imagery, seen throughout his work, is brought to play through his striking series of ‘stitched’ photographs, creating over 500 between 1982 and his death in 1987. These feature identical images arranged in grid form, stitched together with a sewing machine. Tendencies and patterns emerge across both the singular and stitched works that reveal photography to be at the center of Warhol’s thinking, looking and making.
The Factory Photographs David Lynch 17 Jan – 30 Mar 2014
In this series Lynch extends his unique cinematic style to dark and brooding images of derelict factories. The photographs are all shot in black and white in locations including Germany, Poland, New York and England. They capture the labyrinthine passages, detritus and decay of what are now haunting cathedrals of a bygone industrial era, slowly overtaken by nature’s innate power. The exhibition will also feature sound works created by the artist.
The theme of industrialisation is of great interest to Lynch and in films such as Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980) and Dune (1984) machinery and the sounds of industry dominate the background. He began taking photographs of factories when scouting for shooting locations and many of his images seem to possess an inherent potential for being the setting of a story. Functionless, disintegrating, rundown, the ‘factory’ appears in Lynch’s ‘personal narrative’ as an enclave, a refuge from the onrush of progress and modern technology.
These photographs exude David Lynch’s sense of aesthetics and reveal his unmistakable signature: surreal imagery enticing viewers into a world of memory and thought. The otherworldly spaces, cypher-like symbols and strange metamorphoses are reminiscent of the enigmatic and ominous qualities of his films. The factories are always set against the backdrop of winter; adding to their sense of melancholy and desolation is the absence of people whose presence is nonetheless evident throughout. The naked branches of trees, cracks in the windows and peeling wall paint evoke the painterly qualities of charcoal drawings.
The Factory Photographs will present over eighty images taken between 1980 and 2000, all sized at 27.9 x 35.6 cm and displayed in a classic matte and dark wooden frame. Printed on gelatin-silver paper, the texture of the prints resembles the soot, vapours and fine dust covering the surfaces depicted. Arranged in a thematic hang, the exhibition will take viewers on a visual tour of the factories. Starting with architectural photographs of the buildings, it will continue with interior shots, focusing on details such as the old machinery, metalwork, pipes and wires. The exhibition will come full circle ending with exterior photographs of the factories and their surroundings.
David Lynch said: I just like going into strange worlds. A lot more happens when you open yourself up to the work and let yourself act and react to it. Every work ‘talks’ to you, and if you listen to it, it will take you places you never dreamed of.
“I love industry. Pipes. I love fluid and smoke. I love man-made things. I like to see people hard at work, and I like to see sludge and man-made waste.” David Lynch Anyone familiar with David Lynch’s (b. 1946, USA) enigmatic visual language will identify similarities between this series of photographs and his iconic films. Featuring black and white interiors and exteriors of industrial structures, the exhibition exudes his unique cinematic style through dark and brooding images. Shot in various locations including Germany, Poland, New York, New Jersey and England, the works depict the labyrinthine passages, detritus and decay of these man-made structures – haunting cathedrals of a bygone industrial era slowly being taken over by nature. The exhibition is the first European showcasing of this project and is accompanied by one of Lynch’s sound installations.