Photography

REVIEW: William Eggleston – “At Zenith” (2013)

The ASX Team

December 30, 2013

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At Zenith I (from Wedgwood Blue), 1979/2013 © Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

In the sleek and immaculate setting of the Gagosian Gallery, my childhood and adulthood escapes unexpectedly met each other.

REVIEW: WILLIAM EGGLESTON – “AT ZENITH”- GAGOSIAN GALLERY MADISON AVENUE OCT 26- DEC 21 2013

BY: Shahrzad Kamel, NYC DEC 2013

When I was a child I used to lie down on the grass, look up at the clouds and forget about everything else.  I would watch them move for hours, raising my hands up to the sky I wished I could touch them, I would dream of riding away on one; imaginary transportation to another universe. As an adult, I have the same feelings while looking at William Eggleston’s At Zenith, a series of photographs he took of clouds. I can look at them for hours, thinking I can touch what’s in the frame- it looks so real. They also offer me escape to a magical world of enchanting light, flawless pastel colors, and, under the Eggleston-spell, the banal is transformed into the mystical.

In the sleek and immaculate setting of the Gagosian Gallery, my childhood and adulthood escapes unexpectedly met each other. At Zenith is a selection of eleven large-scale prints of clouds taken by Eggleston while on a 1978 road trip from Georgia to Tennessee, and originally published in the artist book Wedgewood Blue, in 1979.  Shot with an early instant camera, while lying on the ground, Eggleston photographed the sky above; referred to as ‘celestial zenith’. In a gallery that offers no exterior views, these photographs take on the role of windows to the outside world.

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At Zenith XIV (from Wedgwood Blue), 1979/2013 © Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

In the sleek and immaculate setting of the Gagosian Gallery, my childhood and adulthood escapes unexpectedly met each other. At Zenith is a selection of eleven large-scale prints of clouds taken by Eggleston while on a 1978 road trip from Georgia to Tennessee, and originally published in the artist book Wedgewood Blue, in 1979.  Shot with an early instant camera, while lying on the ground, Eggleston photographed the sky above; referred to as ‘celestial zenith’. In a gallery that offers no exterior views, these photographs take on the role of windows to the outside world.

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At Zenith offers something different. It is pensive, abstract and subtle.

Even though I may not be entirely satisfied by the pigment prints as compared to the older and more luscious dye-transfers, or in the banal and repetitive nature of this series by a photographer of far-greater dynamism, I put these reactions aside. At Zenith offers something different. It is pensive, abstract and subtle. All of the photographs in the exhibition are of blue skies and elegantly wispy or boldly fluffy clouds, except for the last one, which is dark and menacing, leaving us with an anxiety that something more tumultuous is there.

The dedication to Szarkowski in the accompanying Steidl publication At Zenith and the inclusion of the poem “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by W.B Yeats is touching, and offers a more poetic melancholy to the series. Szarkowski, who passed away in 2007 saw the magic in Eggleston’s work at a time when there was a stigma attached to color in art photography. He curated the legendary 1976 exhibition William Eggleston’s Guide at the Museum of Modern Art, which was the first solo exhibition of color photographs at the museum, and a milestone of color photography.

As Szarkowski said of Eggleston, “As pictures, however, these seem to me perfect: irreducible surrogates for the experience they pretend to record, visual analogues for the quality of one life, collectively a paradigm of a private view, a view one would have thought ineffable, described here with clarity, fullness and elegance.”

(All rights reserved. Text @ Shahrzad Kamel, Images @ William Eggleston)

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