Photographer Bill Jacobson Fêted in Boston with Joint Retrospective

Mar 14, 2016 10:38PM

This spring, Robert Klein Gallery fêtes photographer Bill Jacobson with “This Is, this is (1989–Now),” a retrospective spread across two Boston locations. The two spaces, in Back Bay and South End, are filled with 26 years’ worth of Jacobson’s work, revealing the range of his vision and his conceptual approach to photography.

Jacobson got his start in 1989, when he began producing out-of-focus photographs of people and landscapes. He pursued this approach into the 1990s, including in “Song of Sentient Beings” and “Interim Landscape,” two series represented in this joint exhibition. Set against an open field, Interim Landscape #134-17 (1989) shows a man in the process of tipping a wheelbarrow that contains an indistinguishable black mass. A dog faces the wheelbarrow as two puppies trot away, suggesting that perhaps its shadowy mass is a pile of puppies.

Song of Sentient Beings #1138 (1994) features the blurred portraits of two men, one barely visible behind the other. Clothed only in white undershorts, which stand out against the photograph’s black and gray tones, the men appear to be captured out of place and time. Rather than clearly representing their subjects, these two photographs evoke memories, thoughts, and dreams—evidence of Jacobson’s interest in the more abstract applications of photography.

Also on view in the exhibition are photographs from Jacobson’s most recent body of work, “Place (Series),” which was recently released in a monograph. Shot in color and in focus, this series centers on white and monochromatic rectangles, as in Place (Series) #240 (2010). On a rural dirt road, a white rectangle disrupts the image by creating negative space, like a blank spot in nature. In Place (Series) #1034 (2013), stacked rectangles lean against a wall, forming a real-life abstraction that could easily be mistaken for oil-on-canvas Neo-Plasticism. Like all Jacobson’s work, the image challenges our understanding of what a photograph represents.

Karen Kedmey

This Is, this is (1989–Now)” is on view at Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, Feb. 27–Apr. 30, 2016.

Follow Robert Klein Gallery on Artsy.