Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Continued Nocturnal Wanderings
of Lynn Saville

"In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down,
And cut him 'til he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
'I am leaving, I am leaving.'
But the fighter still remains."
("The Boxer," Paul Simon/Art Garfunkel)

Fulton Landing Warehouse

As Arthur C. Danto implies in his Introduction to Night/Shift - to appreciate Lynn Saville's new book, we first might look at her previous text, Acquainted with the Night. Which is a nice way to look at an artist’s work, we think – to get some sense of continuity, change, progress – the larger view, as it were. Luckily we have the vast resources of The Nocturnes Night Photography Library at our beck and call – so here we go! It’s no secret that Ms. Saville’s first book of NPy is a long-time favorite of ours, for I’ve included discussion of it in my History of Night Photography lectures (and, no, NPy wasn’t invented at!) since its publication in 1997; along with two other landmark monographs of the 1990s - both b/w photography, as well – Luca Campigotto’s Venice Night and Alan Delaney’s London After Dark.

Much of the work in Acquainted with the Night appears to be shorter exposures, maybe even handheld, offering an immediacy, a reactance, almost a voyeuristic thrill to the scenes we are witnesses to. The book is a contemplative look into the mysteries of the night, coupled with timeless passages of poetry dealing with various aspects of the nocturne.

As Mr. Danto notes, Night/Shift presents a seemingly "abrupt discontinuity" in the continued nocturnal wanderings of Ms. Saville. The Shift most evident is the presence of color - Acquainted with the Night was all black-and-white NPy with plenty of supporting text, including a foreward by Bill Moyers. In contrast, Night/Shift "reads" more like a typical artist's monograph: large-sized, full page plates in vivid color, simply adorned with titles, many times on otherwise blank, facing pages. With the exception of the introduction and a brief commentary by Ms. Saville at the end of the book, no other text appears, relying instead on the images (with brief, mostly geographical descriptions for titles) to tell the story. A story we all know, filtered anew thru that unique lens, the eye of the photographer: lonely walkways at night, forbidden, forlorn passageways (to what? - more darkness?) abandoned sites amidst the glow of one of the world's great metropolises, solitary quiet moments amid the constant hum of the city. One other comparison/contrast: while I still consider Acquainted with the Night to be a memoir of discrete New York moments, that text did include images from other locales (I recently noted Dingle, Ireland!) - with the new book, there is no denying the source of Ms. Saville's nocturnal attractions – this is a "greater New York" tome.

In her commentary, Lynn points out that most of the work in Night/Shift was mostly done during twilight (either evening or pre dawn – straying again from most of the work in the previous text) - that elusive period which "is a kind of fluid boundary between daylight and full night." And, in a recent interview with
Double Exposure she tells us that she photographed the images in this book with medium format film cameras - we assume another departure from its predecessor: most likely 35mm film cameras.

While Mr. Danto states that the images of Night/Shift remind him of “the Paris of Atget” - I would like to point out another possible point of linkage - between Lynn Saville's work and “the New York of
Jan Staller,” another New York nocturnal who has been drawn to photograph the great urban center at night. Again, we know the story – but the Shift comes about with the uniqueness, the interpretation of the quietude - that is Lynn’s alone.

"Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters
Aren’t bleeding me,
Leading me,
Going home."
("The Boxer," Paul Simon/Art Garfunkel)

Ken at George Washington Bridge
In addition to the above images, some particular highlights for this reviewer include:
On page 9 – Smith and Ninth Streets (elevated station, hauntingly lonely in its simplicity)
Page 13 – West 42nd Street (and the cover of the book)
Page 18 – Kentile Floors (also the back cover of book - subtle pastels and chain link fences – the best of the NPy world!)
Page 59 – Pepsi-Cola Sign (my fascination for the back of neon signs is validated!)

More images from the book (as well as other earlier work) can be viewed at Lynn's site and the Paul Kopeikin Gallery site.
Please consider purchasing the book thru this link or in the Books Section of The Nocturnes Web site.

The next Lecture and Book signing will be held Wednesday, July 15 at 7:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, Tribeca, 97 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007 – more details can be found on Lynn’s site.

Lastly, Lynn has some 20 x 24 inch Chromogenic Prints from Night/Shift on view at Yancey Richardson Gallery, 535 West 22nd Street, NYC, NY - thru August 28th. Summer hours there are Monday - Friday, 10-6pm.

(From the desk of The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man;
for The [not so] Daily Nocturne)

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