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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Burk Uzzle: American Puzzles at Steven Kasher Gallery

Image above: ©Burk Uzzle, Andy Under Diving Board, North Carolina , 1975. 

 

Steven Kasher Gallery announced on June 11th  a major exhibition, Burk Uzzle: American Puzzles, the first exhibition of the artist’s work at the gallery. The exhibition features over 70 vintage black and white photographs of the American social landscape from the 1960s through the 2000s. Like the photographs of the New Topographics, Uzzle’s work offers a formal simplification of the visual field with an emotionally complex rendering of American society. His puzzle-like images question and confront the tensions present in our individual and cultural psyches.

BU146©Burk Uzzle, Big Rooster, Wilson, North Carolina, 1970.
BU136©Burk Uzzle, Wrong Way Arrow, Cony Island, NY, 1968.

Uzzle’s work utilizes nuanced compositions, quirky and obscure. They feature a poignant yet empathetic sense of irony. Uzzle says, “These photographs are an appreciation of America. Their structure, like that of America itself, evokes a melody of movement and collage – not an explanation. Unlike documents, they play tag with layers of reality, both interior and exterior. America is like that, conditioning us to zig-zag and change with its constant, energetic barrage of many and various realities. But there is a melody in all the movement, and I can only feel it in America.”

Burk Uzzle2Uzzle during the opening night at Steven Kasher Gallery.

BU135© Burk Uzzle, Overpass Shadows, Connecticut Race Track, 1967.

BU089©Burk Uzzle, Brand New Highway, New Mexico, 1970.

Henri Cartier-Bresson advised Uzzle to study the Quattrocento painters which, as he says, erased his laser vision that riveted on a single headline moment and opened his eyes to the play of planes “to head me into confusion, riot, and the camera’s gluttony and the simultaneous distraction of the world.” Alongside of his artistic work, Uzzle has produced some of the most recognizable images we have of Woodstock, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Cambodian War.

Born in 1938 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Uzzle began working as a photographer at age 14. He became a staff photographer for the Raleigh News & Observer at 17, and by 1957 was hired as a contract photographer for the Black Star Agency. In 1962, at age 23, he became the youngest photographer ever hired by LIFE magazine. In 1967, Uzzle became a member of Magnum Photos, the prestigious international cooperative founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. An active contributor to Magnum for over sixteen years, he was twice elected president.

BU149©Burk Uzzle, Park Slide, Washington, DC, 1967.
BU084©Burk Uzzle, Tired, New Jersey , 1967.
Charles Isaacs & Carol NigroCharles Isaacs & Carol Nigro during the opening night at Steven Kasher Gallery.
 

1During the opening night at Steven Kasher Gallery.

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