Thursday, January 13, 2011

Poet of the Mundane: Eggleston at LACMA

I went to see the William Eggleston: Democratic Camera exhibit at LACMA's new(-ish) wing on a moody, stormy day in late December (during the torrential downpour that caused mudslides and floods from the PCH to the valley). Eggleston, who I mentioned in my earlier "Can I Borrow Your Mixtape" entry, captures a nostalgic and suggestive sense of Americana in his simple, highly saturated color prints. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he discovered the process of dye-transfer printing (now his characteristic method) while teaching photography at Harvard in the early 1970s. Since then he has become an undisputed pioneer of American color photography, credited with the legitimization of the medium as a serious art form-- his images of ordinary objects are made utterly poignant through his use of intense hues and provocative composition. His iconic photographs have been used on countless album covers, including those of Spoon, Big Star, Joanna Newsom, Primal Scream, Jimmy Eat World, Silver Jews and others-- which only serves to demonstrate his deep connection to and influence on popular culture. We can also surmise his influence on the fashion world-- Marc Jacobs used Eggleston himself, along with Charlotte Rampling, in an advertisement for his haute couture line, while the print ad for Jacobs' Daisy perfume is all-too-reminiscent of a certain Eggleston photograph, Untitled (1975).

Red Ceiling or Greenwood, Mississippi (1973) : you can really see the effects of the dye-transfer process in this photo-- Eggleston himself said of this work, "The Red Ceiling is so powerful, that in fact I've never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction. When you look at the dye it is like red blood that's wet on the wall.... A little red is usually enough, but to work with an entire red surface was a challenge."

Two Girls on the Sofa (1974)

Memphis, Tennessee (1971-74)

Untitled (from "Los Alamos," 1965-1968)

Untitled (from "Los Alamos," 1965-1968)

Huntsville, Alabama (c.1970)

Untitled (1975)

...and an ad for Marc Jacobs' fragrance Daisy. Spy the resemblance?

Eggleston himself, with Charlotte Rampling, in a 2007 Marc Jacobs print ad

The retrospective features an extensive array of Eggleston's work, from his early black-and-white photographs of the early 1960's to his startlingly vivid dye-transfer work of the 70's and 80's to his rarely-seen video work Stranded in Canton.

1 comment:

  1. I loved that show! Great write-up. I didn't know about all of those album covers...