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Artist's Reception: Gregory Conniff at Joseph Bellows Gallery

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 29, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013

Common Ground

Exhibition Dates: August 3 - August 31, 2013

Opening Reception with the Artist:

Saturday, August 3

6:00 - 8:00 pm


Gregory Conniff was born and raised in New Jersey and as a photographer is largely self-taught, though he holds degrees from Columbia University in government and the University of Virginia in law. His work first came to attention with a solo exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of art in Washington D.C. in 1979. He has since exhibited regularly and earned numerous fellowships, the the National Endowment of the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation among them. This exhibition with Joseph Bellows Gallery marks Conniff's first on the West Coast.

The subjects of Gregory Conniff's work seem at first rather simple, plain, mundane even, but always there is something undeniably magic to them. Conniff found the beauty in everyday American architecture, and his work has been likened to that of master Walker Evans and others who's work was formal and unadorned. With visual clarity and frankness Conniff's work celebrates the visual geometry of common places. The construction of the works is lovely, and our eye often finds delight in visual rhythms and balance of or breaks in space achieved through shadow.

Repetition of pattern is a favorite of Conniff, and the work establishes lovely passages. Our eye dances on fenceposts, slides down beams, rolls down stairs and runs along branches. Space can be found to be built and even depth cut in an image with these visual rhythms. In Wildwood, NJ, 1979 repetition of form is almost all that delineates space. This work is almost all white-on-white and shifts in line made by shadow is almost all that help us to identify and place form. Monmouth, NJ, 1978 is another visually exciting experience of pure visual rhythm.

Space is also often made or defined for Conniff through shadow. Long, rich, satisfying shadows push and break space into strong planes. The garage wall of Madison, WI, 1979 can almost be pulled away like a puzzle piece from the light-washed front. The shadow of a roofline and chimney cut deep into space in Washington D.C., 1979 and distance flickers as it is pushed and pulled. Space is definitively divided with a fence shadow and becomes stabilizing middle ground in Bay Head, NJ, 1978.

Some of the more decidedly striking images of Conniff rely on one or the other of these two strategies to keep us engaged, but others are more subtly revealing. Some of the busier frames, like Avalon, NJ, 1979; Wildwood, NJ 1979; or Madison, WI, 1982 engage the same strategies but in deeper pockets. Longer looking reveals that these images break into segments but eventually an order to the larger visual frame emerges.

For more information on the exhibition, please visit Joseph Bellows Gallery

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