Stephen Wirtz Gallery is pleased to present A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, an exhibition of Mike Brodie’s celebrated series of photographs.
A Period of Juvenile Prosperity reveals an American subculture of which Brodie was an observant participant—joining a youthful bande à part that pushed back against the promises of an intensely connected modernity to wander, travelling cross-country by any means possible, often on freight trains, and living off the land. Along the way, he picked up a camera, to which he made an immediate and innate connection, and began photographing young lives bound to the earth yet skimming swiftly across it.
Slowly and deliberately composed, Brodie’s photographs possess an amplified realism, portraying a realm of golden-hued sunlight and rough dirt, of heavy iron and steel moving at cacophonous high speeds, all captured with a silence and luminosity as raw and vital as it is intentional and precise. Rest and motion dominate. Settings and characters are interweaved in formal, highly romantic images of rugged and inhospitable surroundings populated by tattooed beauties, runaways, lovers, losers, thrill-seekers, and others escaping the deeply felt alienation of their rural, urban, and suburban upbringings. Clothed in an aesthetic that melds the Great Depression with punk, they read books as they traveled—Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Hunter Thompson’s The Rum Diaries—and used them as makeshift pillows for rest, while wearing trashed Nikes salvaged from dumpsters and eating from tin cans.
In his book Riding Toward Everywhere, the writer William Vollmann observed, “And we flee in search of last summer or next summer, but there’s no harm in it if we know all the time that it’s only a shadow show.” A teenager at the time he began using a camera, Brodie caught lives that most would consider dangerously desperate, yet they were pursued and embraced with an ignorant recklessness and blind fortitude unique to the young. Intimately connected to his subjects, Brodie seized upon that privileged position to make revelatory images of deep honesty—poetic visuals of the universal longing to forestall the inevitable passage from youth to something more uncomfortably certain.
Mike Brodie was born in 1985 in Mesa, Arizona, and spent his formative years in Pensacola, Florida. In 2004, he was given a Polaroid camera, and later used a Nikon 35 mm. Significant recognition and accolades from the art world followed, a development Brodie neither sought nor desired. Although untrained, his works echo and find common cause with the photographic traditions of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Nan Goldin. In 2008, he won the Baum Award for Emerging American Photographers. His work is in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Berkeley Art Museum, and previously has been exhibited at Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, and M + B Gallery, Los Angeles. Earlier this year, Twin Palms Publishers published A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, a critically praised monograph of Brodie’s photographs. After studying at Nashville Auto Diesel College (NADC), he moved to Oakland, CA, where he is employed working on large-scale diesel engines. He no longer takes photographs.