Sprüth Magers Berlin London

Uncommon places   Sprüth Magers Berlin   november 12 2010 - january 08 2011

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Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present work by Stephen Shore in his first solo show in Berlin for over 15 years. The exhibition features 80 previously unseen works from the series Uncommon Places, in addition to a number of pages from his seminal Road Trip Journal.

A self-taught photographer, Stephen Shore began his career in 1961, at the early age of fourteen, when he presented and sold his photographs to Edward Steichen, then curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Shortly afterwards, from 1965 to 1967, Shore spent much of his time photographing Andy Warhol and his entourage at the ‘Factory’. Through Shore’s early exposure to Warhol he was able to absorb the New York art scene and produce spontaneous snapshots of famous performers such as Edie Sedgwick and Lou Reed, using an unintimidating hand-held camera, which developed the artist’s intuition for capturing the unmediated, fleeting moment as one that might become part of a timeless cultural narrative. In 1971, he became the first living photographer to have a solo exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Shore embarked on his first road trip in the summer of 1972 which resulted in the series American Surfaces. With a Rolleiflex 35 mm camera, the forerunner of the point-and-shoot, Shore was able to immediately capture the people, places and objects he encountered, producing a series of consciously casual and intimate snapshots. Embracing the work of the conceptual artists of the 1960s who adopted the photographic medium as a tool to make systematic, often compulsive explorations of locations, Shore too began to assemble a sequential visual record of his travels in which the singular photograph was only significant in terms of its place in the series. Shore opted for the mass-produced amateurish method of printing his colour, glossy photographs at a Kodak lab in the standard 3 by 5 inch format, favoured by tourists.

While Shore continued to document his travels, he wanted to explore a greater visual intentionality and, therefore, began his next series of work in 1973 entitled Uncommon Places. Here the artist focuses on the minutiae of modern life in America, capturing anonymous intersections, residential architecture, uniform drive-by diners, generic motel rooms and monotonous gas stations, all of which were shot using colour film and a view camera, a combination that had rarely been put to use in recording America’s social landscape. The artist’s move towards a tripod-bound, larger format, 8 by 10 inch, view camera was fuelled by the rigorous nature of the equipment which allows for ‘clarity of thought’ whilst one makes a conscious, premeditated decision to take a photograph. Furthermore, by employing this method, which immediately eliminates spontaneity, Shore could now capture every precise detail within the carefully framed scene, such as the red bicycle apparent in the distance of 4th and Main, Delphos, OH, July 6, 1973. The artist’s increasing interest in the linear construction and symmetrical organization of his motifs is evident in the work, Anderson Heating Co., 2nd St, Ashland, W1, July 9, 1973 in which the strong horizontal structure of the centrally placed building is repeated throughout the scene.

The rich, elaborate palette used throughout the series, which was shocking to the audience at the time, added the visual accuracy and heightened awareness that Shore needed to depict his ordinary contemporary subjects. In 1971 colour photography was not welcome in the realm of high-art photography as it was commonly used by commercial photographers, depicted in advertising or seen on the television. Through the repetitive use of the acid yellow & vinyl red billboards depicted in Main Street, Twin Falls, Idaho, July 19, 1973, Shore is able to illuminate the generic artefacts of contemporary culture with his rebellious use of colour.

Previously unpublished photographs from Uncommon Places will be assembled together in the exhibition, allowing the viewer to explore the artist’s movements and enter the specific place he has defined. In addition to his visual account of his time on the road, Shore also kept a journal with him during his first journeys for Uncommon Places, producing a daily written record of his car mileage, meals eaten, programs watched on television, motel bills and picture postcards of towns, surreptitiously marking his drive-by visits. Examples of Shore’s meticulous record of daily activities can be seen in his book, entitled Road Trip Journal, pages of which are featured in the exhibition. Through his compilation of data and bills, Shore strove for objectivity by enumerating his daily activities while recounting how much money he spent, devoid of sentiment or nostalgia. His Road Trip Journal further marks the transition from an untutored, unmediated record to a more mechanical and analytical way of presenting time.

Additional works from Uncommon Places and American Surfaces are concurrently on show at the NRW-Forum in Düsseldorf as part of the exhibition Biographical Landscape. The Photography of Stephen Shore, 1968-1993. The second part of the exhibition, also currently on show at the NRW-Forum, entitled Der Rote Bulli: Stephen Shore and the New Düsseldorf Photography, explores how Stephen Shore’s unique use of colour film and view camera has influenced a generation of photographers including Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth and Candida Höfer amongst many others, all of whom were exposed to his work by Bernd and Hilla Becher while studying at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf.

Stephen Shore was born in 1947 in New York City and currently lives in Tivoli, New York. He is the Director of the Photography Program at Bard College. Solo shows include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1971); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1976); Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf (1977); Ringling Museum, Sarasota (1981); Art Institute of Chicago (1984); Sprengel Museum, Hannover (1995) and SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne (1999). Group exhibitions include Barbican Gallery, London (1985); Palazzo Fortuny, Venice (1987); National Gallery, Washington (1989); J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (1997); Whitney Museum, New York (1999); Victoria & Albert Museum, London (1999) and Tate Modern, London (2003).

Stephen Shore has been a recipient of a number of major awards over the course of his career, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1975 and the National Endowments for the Arts Fellowship in 1974 & 1979.

For further information and press inquiries please contact Jan Salewski (js@spruethmagers.com).