Saturday, 1 May 2010

GoMA - Joel Sternfeld

Another exhibition currently on at GoMA is 'Unsettled Objects' which is a collection of new works acquired by the gallery. It includes video, installation and photography, including a number of images by Joel Sternfeld.


Although he's well know for images such as the pumpkin stand with the house on fire behind it in McLean, Virginia, the first time I came across Joel Sternfeld was the work he did making people aware of the Highline in New York.
The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park.

The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park.

The project gained the City's support in 2002. The High Line south of 30th Street was donated to the City by CSX Transportation Inc. in 2005. The design team of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, created the High Line's public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, is projected to open in June 2009.
The High Line Organisation


Artist impressions of the Highline Project when open to the public.



The photographs at GoMA are from a project called 'On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam'.
Sternfeld’s photographs are marked by two absences: the absence of official, sanctioned memorials and the absence of people. The absence of people in Sternfeld’s photographs is conspicuous: these are sites of human violence and tragedy, yet Sternfeld removes all human presence from the majority of these images. The photographs are primarily landscapes, but because of what the images represent, their meaning is tied to human motives and behaviors. These photographs raise questions about the impact of human beings on the environment and the landscapes we occupy. Two photographs deliberately ask for consideration of damage done to the environment: “518 101st Street, Love Canal Neighborhood, Niagara Falls, New York, May 1994” and “Hanford Reservation, Hanford, Washington, August 1994.” Sternfeld’s text captures what the photographs cannot: “From the 1920s through the 1950s, the city of Niagara Falls, the United States Army, and the Hooker Chemical Corporation dumped over 200 different toxic chemicals into Love Canal.” At Hanford, “[m]ore than 440 billion gallons of chemical and radioactive waste were poured into the ground.” There is horror in the earth and the air: can it be captured and evoked in a still image? The visual absence of evidence, and the absence of human presence, renders these photographs as chilling portraits of the invisible damage done to the environment.

(DocumentaryWorks)

518 101st Street, Love Canal Neighborhood, Niagara Falls, New York, May 1994

Hanford Reservation, Hanford, Washington, August 1994

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