Mitch Epstein Turns His Lens to the Rocks and Clouds for a New Solo Show at Yancey Richardson
Epstein shoots in color (he helped pioneer fine art color photography) and, as with this latest series, in sensuous black and white. These large-scale prints are rich with gorgeous detail, making them exceptionally well-suited to his subjects: clouds and rocks found across the five boroughs of New York City.
Since the beginning of his photographic career in the early 1970s, Epstein has captured urban and rural environments across the United States and, later, around the world. For this new project, he drew inspiration from traditional Chinese paintings as well as Earthwork artists like Robert Smithson, who built his famed Spiral Jetty (1970) out of mud, salt crystals, and basalt rocks.
Epstein’s clouds, which range from ephemeral and diffuse to dense and heavy, suggest the elasticity of time. In Clouds #18, New York City (2014), they are soft and foggy, turning the sky a uniform gray and obscuring the tops of skyscrapers ringing the edge of Lower Manhattan. In Clouds #89, New York City (2015), Epstein captures a rectangle of sky layered with clouds in a riot of forms.
Meanwhile, the seemingly immovable rocks suggest the past and, on a grander scale, time immemorial. Sometimes they recede into the distance, a subtle presence within the frame; elsewhere they command our attention with their forceful presence, reminding us of the smallness and lightness of our comparatively fragile existence.