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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Michael Eastman: Structure and Color at Edwynn Houk Gallery

Image above: Prado Façade, Havana, 2014. ©Michael Eastman/Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Edwynn Houk Gallery announced their inaugural solo exhibition of recent works by Michael Eastman (American, b. 1947). The exhibition opened on Thursday 19 February and will run through Saturday 4 April 2015.

The selection of large scale architectural photographs on view were taken during Eastman’s extensive travels throughout Cuba, Europe, Asia and the United States. The exhibition explores the artist’s distinctive use of color and pictorial structure to illuminate disparate cultures and time periods.

double 1(left)Portrait, Havana, 2010 (right) Deco Stairwell #2, Havana, 2014. ©Michael Eastman/Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.

In Eastman’s photographs of Havana (see illustration) the vibrant colors and architecture recall the heydey of Havana’s history, but are juxtaposed with signals its economic decline: a rectangle of fading where a painting once hung; crumbling plaster; and wobbly furniture that looks as though it would break if used. Eastman’s subjective use of color and structure results in a portrait of quintessential Havana.

In contrast, works made in Rome, Paris, and Milan are like timecapsules of information which signal the grandeur of European culture. Unlike the Cuban photographs, Eastman utilizes a soft and sensual palette that focuses on classicism and permanence of the architectural spaces. These compositions feature rich materials, trompel'oeil paintings, long hallways, and plush, perfectly maintained rococo furnishings, highlighting the timelessness and prominence and wealth of these cultures.

Eastman’s photographic career began in the late 1960’s, when black & white photography was almost exclusively used for fine art photography. His style was greatly influenced by The Daybooks of Edward Weston and practicing Ansel Adams’ zone system. Selftaught and intrigued by surface, patina, and geometric precision, Eastman’s formative photographs were black and white pictures of abstract patterns he sought out within complex urban environments. But by 1982, once Eastman saw the pioneering color photography of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, he began to use a large format camera and color film, exploring a new realm of expression in color.

double 2(left) Isabella's Two Chairs, 2000. (right) Red Chairs, Rome, 2010. ©Michael Eastman/Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.

Michael Eastman was born in 1947 in St. Louis, Missouri, and studied at the University of Wisconsin. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the National Addy Award and a Paris Photo BMW Prize Finalist. His work is in numerous private and public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the International Center of Photography, NY, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. His publications include Havana (Prestel, 2011), Vanishing America (Rizzoli, 2008), and Horses (Knopf, 2003), which is now in its fifth edition. He currently lives and works in St. Louis, Missouri.

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