“Rocks and Clouds” relates to the significance of time through ancient rocks and fleeting clouds. As with his acclaimed tree portraits “New York Arbor”, Mitch Epstein has taken these large-format black and white pictures in the five boroughs of New York City, and deepen his investigation of how nature and society interact.
Epstein is less interested in wilderness than in how the natural world exists in an urban landscape – where architecture is, at its most elemental, made of rock. These pictures evoke the human aspiration and inability to harness time and nature.
At the same time it is striking that nature will outlive us to find human habitat continue to change. The cumulative effect of these photographs is to invert people’s usual view of their city: nature no longer functions as background or a decorative element, but instead subtly dominates the human life and architecture around them.
The artist uses his signature technique of pictorial layering, and with Rocks and Clouds he further refines his convergence of the conceptual and documentary. A pioneer of fine art color photography in the 1970s, Epstein employs his formal mastery to describe the cityʼs sky and bedrock, as both sculptural and potent.
The mirroring of rocks and clouds and the synthesis of whatʼs above and below the horizon have intrigued ancient Chinese painters, as well as modern earthwork artists such as Robert Smithson, both of whom were inspirations for this series. Made with an 8×10 field camera, Rocks and Clouds salutes slow photography in a digital culture. In this way, the subject of time informs the workʼs content and its methodology.
When it seems impossible to make a fresh picture of New York, Epstein surprises us with an unfamiliar view of it.
ROCKS AND CLOUDS
YANCEY RICHARDSON GALLERY
THROUGH 22 OCT