Trees For The Forest – John Divola

“Trees for the Forest,” Installation View

“Vandalism Series,” 1974, Vintage gelatin silver print, 7 x 7 inches

“Dogs Chasing my car in the Desert,” 1996-2001, Gelatin silver paper, 15.5 x 23 inches

“Zuma” Series, 1977-2006, Archival pigment print on rag paper, 21 x 26 inches

“As Far As I Can Get, Running” Series, 1996, Archival pigment print on rag paper, 60 x 40 inches

“Dark Star” Series, 2008, Archival pigment on rag paper, 40 x 50 inches

“San Fernando Valley” Series, 1971-1973, Vintage gelatin silver print, 6 x 9 inches

“San Fernando Valley” Series, 1971-1973, Vintage gelatin silver print, 6 x 9 inches

John Divola

Trees for the Forest

Wallspace Gallery, NY

May 6 – June 18, 2011

“The works on view span the last four decades, and provide an expansive yet necessarily incomplete picture of John Divola’s practice – a canny yet understated  blend of documentary photography, conceptual art, performance and installation. The collection of works begins in 1971 with Divola’s images of women watering their lawns in the San Fernando Valley, and includes his landmark Vandalism and Zuma series from the same decade. While the San Fernando Valley work assumes a more deadpan, observational approach to image making, Divola’s Vandalism and Zuma Series invoke a theatrical tension that blurs the lines between authorship and documentation, sharing “a tradition with artists such as Bruce Nauman, whose photographs are considered to be performance or sculpture, and Robert Smithson, who used photography to investigate the built environment.”1 In these images, vacant, vandalized sites become the stage for Divola’s own observation, documentation, and artistic interventions: walls are spray painted, found piles of detritus become sculptures, and the site itself is a work in situ.

The sway between a structured, observational approach to image making and the free-form, improvisational gestures of his interventions is very much at the crux of Divola’s practice and can be traced from his earliest foundational work of the 1970’s to more recent bodies of work such as Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert (1996-2001), where Divola documents the dogs that chased his car while working in the Southern California desert; As Far as I Could Get (1996/1997), where Divola sets up a camera and runs away from it during a given exposure; and Dark Star (2008), where his melding of intervention and observation continues to be in the foreground in large-format, color work made during the last decade.”

John Divola (b. 1949, Los Angeles) received a MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1974. Since 1975 he has taught photography and art at numerous institutions including California Institute of the Arts (1978-1988), and since 1988 he has been Professor of Art at the University of California, Riverside. Divola’s work has been featured in more than sixty solo and 200 group exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including “Mirrors and Windows,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 1978; “1981 Biennial Exhibition,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York, 1981; “Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity 1900-2000, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2000; and “Los Angeles 1955-85,” Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2006. Forthcoming exhibitions include Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-81 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in October, organized by Chief Curator Paul Schimmel as part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A 1945-1980; a solo exhibition of the entire Vandalism series will be held at LAXART in Los Angeles at the same time. Divola is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and a California Arts Council Individual Artist Grant, among other awards.

1 Tumlir, Jan. “John Divola: Three Acts,” 144 pages, New York: Aperture, 2006.

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