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Gregory Conniff - Common Ground - Opening Reception

Aug 03

Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, CA 92037

Exhibition dates: 3 August - 31 August, 2013
Opening reception with the artist: 3 August, 2013 6-8pm

Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to present the first West Coast solo exhibition for Gregory Conniff, whose innovative and intricate photographs of everyday American architecture and its surrounding landscape first brought him recognition some three decades ago. When Conniff’s first book, Common Ground, was published in 1985, the distinguished critic and scholar John A. Kouwenhoven called it “a major event in the history of photography.”

Kouwenhoven likened Conniff’s vision to Walker Evans and Conniff’s images are part of an important American tradition, rooted in Evans. Its notable practitioners emphasize straightforward, unadorned composition and vernacular architecture. Conniff’s photographs are grounded in both this quiet description of place and a photographic formalism that promotes the artist's acute observations regarding spatial relationships, depth and form; not unlike Evans, Lee Friedlander and his contemporary Thomas Roma.

Conniff’s pictures from Common Ground will be featured in this exhibition, along with others from the late 1970s and 1980s that have never been shown. Taken in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington D.C. along with a few other locales farther from Conniff’s home in Madison, these photographs share a keen appreciation of domestic architecture as well as the fences, gardens and ornamentation that define the backyards adjoining these homes. Seemingly casual convergences of house, vegetation, fence and land become, with a closer look, intricate displays of the geometry embedded in our ordinary surroundings.

His photographs order the world they describe; honoring the common places and things he organizes within the viewfinder of his medium format camera. The gelatin silver prints that present this vision are exceptionally beautiful. They express clarity, light, and a subtle tonal range that at once respects the subject pictured and the medium that represents it.

“I have learned to make images of my everyday landscape that help me see and value elements of it often invisible in their commonness“, writes Conniff in the introduction to Common Ground.

Conniff is largely a self-taught photographer. He earned a degree in government from Columbia University and a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1969.

He came to national attention with a solo exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in 1979. He has exhibited regularly since then, also earning fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and the Wisconsin Arts Board. His pictures are included in such collections as the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Corcoran. In addition to Common Ground, he has authored several books including Gregory Conniff: Twenty Years in the Field and Wild Edges: Photographic Ink Prints.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Conniff has lived in Madison, Wisconsin for more than four decades with his wife Dorothy. He has solo exhibitions at the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum and numerous other venues on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

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