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August 29, 2011
Innovative photographer Graham Howe reveals his early photo-conceptual work at the Pasadena Armory Center for the Arts.
Since the 1970s photographer and curator Graham Howe has led photo-curating in Los Angeles, founded an arts organization in Pasadena, been featured in several landmark exhibitions, and published or contributed to books with artists such Paul Outerbridge, E.O. Hoppé, Ansel Adams and Toyo Miyatake, among others.
As one of the few graduate students to study under the late Robert Heinecken, UCLA's legendary post-modern photo-educator, Howe, with other cutting-edge Los Angeles artists, have redefined the role of photo-based media.
In an exhibition titled "Street Sight" at Armory Art Center in Pasadena, Howe's artwork is being exhibited alongside that of his peers from the 1970s: Adam Bartos, Darryl Curran, Bevan Davies, John Divola, Judy Fiskin, Robbert Flick, Dennis Hopper, Grant Mudford, Jane O'Neal, Marvin Rand, Seymour Rosen, Ed Ruscha, Julian Wasser, and Terry Wild. According to a Los Angeles Times review (June 23, 2011), "[the artists] find unexpected beauty in environments shaped by car culture" (link to review: http://tinyurl.com/3ngbqnf ).
In November 2009, Howe's art was the subject of a retrospective survey exhibition curated by Colin Westerbeck, Director of the California Museum of Photography, Riverside. Westerbeck, who has dubbed Howe "The Witty Conceptualist" had been watching Howe's photographic work since the 1980s and realized to his dismay that Howe had closeted some forty years of his artwork to focus on his more public role as an art curator. When Westerbeck asked why he hadn't shown his artwork for several decades Howe explained.
"I used to think that making art could be just a private matter and that it didn't need an audience. I was wrong. As I've drawn from and had a dialogue with a diverse community I now realize that I have a responsibility to give back. My audience may love or hate my art but it I still need to be part of the dialogue. As a curator and an artist I might be a conceptual hybrid, kind of like Monsanto is to corn, but hopefully I'm more intellectually engineered than corny. You decide."
Curated by LA photo-curator Tim Wride, "Street Sight" is an examination of the quintessentially automobile-centric Southern Californian experience of place. It is an exhibition about new ways of seeing, a different mode of experience, and a conceptually charged means of mapping a postmodern approach to street photography. "Street Sight" takes into account the factors that contributed to the post-war shift in Southern California-based photography from imagery that was picturesque, image-oriented, and anecdotal in nature, to a more conceptually-motivated style of representation and object-making that was decisively suburban, process-oriented, and experiential.
One of Howe's works in "Street Sight" references driving in Los Angeles as an art-making act. His "Cancellation, Valencia, California", 1976, shows tire tracks that have crossed over each other making an "X" mark in soft soil, the same "X" mark used by print makers use show that a limited edition print made by a lithographic stone has been concluded. Howe's "Interstate 14, California", 1978, shows the freeway as an aesthetic experience. Cut through a mountain pass we see the Interstate as both a sculptural abstraction and as painterly flattened space.
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