William Christenberry: Photographs, 1961 – 2005 at the Morris Museum of Art
William Christenberry: Photographs, 1961 – 2005
September 12 > November 8, 2009
William Christenberry Photographs, 1961–2005, a phenomenal retrospective exhibition of Christenberry’s Photographs, opens to the public at the Morris Museum of Art on September 16, 2009. The Morris Museum is the only Georgia venue hosting this exhibition.
Old House, near Akron, Alabama, 1964 (plate 100, 35mm)
© William Christenberry
“William Christenberry Photographs, 1961–2005 is an overview of the career of one of the South’s most important living artists,” said Kevin Grogan, director of the Morris Museum of Art. “Organized by the Aperture Foundation, this exhibition brings to Augusta a body of work like no other. No one has so scrupulously and attentively captured a sense of place and time in quite the way that Bill Christenberry has. He is a remarkable artist, as is proven by this extraordinary body of work. He is America’s Proust.“
Since the early 1960s, William Christenberry has plumbed the regional identity of the American South, focusing his attention primarily on his childhood home, Hale County, Alabama. Widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of color photography, Christenberry draws inspiration from the work of Walker Evans, while paralleling the work of such international practitioners as Bernd and Hilla Becher. Ranging from his earliest Brownie photographs to his later work with a large-format camera, William Christenberry Photographs, 1961–2005 is a survey of the artist’s poetic documentation of the Southern landscape and vernacular architecture that surrounded him as he grew up.
Rabbit Pen, near Moundville, Alabama, 1998 (plate 26, 8 x 10)
© William Christenberry
The exhibition, coupling never-before-seen photographs with images that are now iconic, reveals how the history, the very story of place, is at the heart of Christenberry’s ongoing project. While the focus of his work is the American South, it touches on universal themes related to family, culture, nature, spirituality, memory, and aging. Christenberry photographs real things in the real world—ramshackle buildings, weathered commercial signs, lonely back roads, rusted-out cars, whitewashed churches, decorated graves. Dutifully returning to photograph the same locations annually—the green barn, the palmist building, the Bar-B-Q Inn, among others—he has fulfilled a personal ritual and documented the physical changes wrought by every single year. Straddling past and present, Christenberry’s art suggests the gravity and power of the passage of time.
The exhibition is accompanied by a stunning monograph entitled William Christenberry, published by Aperture in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The book, a comprehensive survey, presents all aspects of the artist’s oeuvre as he intended it to be viewed and considered. More than half the work reproduced has not been previously published.
Courtesy The Morris Museum of Art
Images © William Christenberry