Kayne Griffin Corcoran is pleased to present a solo exhibition featuring New York-based artist Justine Kurland. This will be her first solo presentation in Los Angeles.
Kurland has long been fascinated with the American West, and like previous bodies of work the photographs in this exhibition were made over the course of extended road trips with her son. In some ways these new car pictures differ little from Kurland’s earlier staged narrative photographs. But while ideas of freedom were scripted in her prior work, they are revealed here through the literal description of a mode of travel, at once prosaic and portentous, abounding with cracked surfaces and greasy underbellies. The car is both fact and symbol, and the road is an actual landscape as well as a site from which to glean narratives derived from America’s dream of itself, from its collective faith in the inalienable right to freedom.
Pictorially, the car pictures are straightforward taxonomical descriptions of vernacular objects, “documentary style,” such as you might find in Walker Evans’s work. The meaning of these pictures, however, depends upon shifting points of view, a combination of what Kurland found serendipitously and what she (or the viewer) projects onto and into them. The photographs are not metaphoric so much as they are associative—ranging from reflections on masculinity and her young son, to the recent death of her father, to the “rough trade” of used cars. For Kurland, the lens became a way to organize the world’s surface detail into a manifestation of subjective interiority.
Much of the dialogue around contemporary photography examines the material support of the medium. In Kurland’s work, the road itself might count as a material support. Her van has logged many miles and inevitably spends a lot of time jacked up in garages. The reality of car maintenance, previously hidden outside the frame of her photographs, becomes the self-reflexive core of her work. Kurland’s new pictures look at the road not as the means to an end, but as an end unto itself. They signal a critical investigation implicating her own participation in American car culture, and an acknowledgment of the problems inherent to an overly optimistic identification with cars.
The exhibition coincides with the release of a new artist’s book, F-Hole, printed and designed by Rock Bottom Press. The title refers to the f-shaped designs cut for acoustic effect into the faces of certain classical guitars. F-Hole features a selection of the car pictures and an essay by the artist, unspooling the history of her van and the evolution of her feelings about life on the road.
Justine Kurland was born in 1969 in Warsaw, New York. She received her B.F.A from School of Visual Arts, NY in 1996, and her M.F.A. from Yale University in 1998. Her work has been exhibited extensively in museums and galleries in the U.S. and internationally. Recent museum exhibitions have included "Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West" at the Museum of Modern Art, NY; and "Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography" at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. She was the focus of a solo exhibition at CEPA in Buffalo, NY, in 2009.
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