Ethan Turpin: Stereocollision is a series of digitally-recomposed historical images drawn from the California Museum of Photography’s Keystone-Mast Collection, world’s largest stereoscopic photography archive. In his first solo museum exhibition, Ethan Turpin creates new narratives from the historic photographs steeped in twenty-first century meaning. Collecting elements from historic photographs which were originally intended as documentary and educational, he digitally recomposes them to create fantastical images with a sly sense of humor and a strong sense of the cause-and-effect relationships between nineteenth and twentieth century practices and contemporary social, cultural, spiritual, and ecological issues.
Stereoscopic photographs, which allowed viewers to see the world three-dimensionally by looking at images through a special viewer, were at their peak of popularity during the Second Industrial Revolution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Keystone View Company, the largest of the stereoscopic photography companies, dispatched door-to-door salesmen throughout the United States to sell stereo photographs mounted on thick cardstock, espousing their significance as an educational tool and a way to see the world from one's own living room. Millions of stereo cards were sold.
In re-appropriating imagery and combining scenes, Turpin creates new narratives from the historic photographs steeped in twenty-first century meaning. In his original Stereocollision series, "Global Curiosity," Turpin unflinchingly combines images and text from disparate stereo cards in the Keystone View Company's "Tour of the World" set. In "The Gilded Garden," Turpin considers the twenty-first century consequences of the industrial growth from the Second Industrial Revolution in images that address changing civilization and ecological instability. Where Keystone's world tour was attempting to educate and entertain (within rather imperialistic parameters), Turpin's contemporary stereo cards draw attention to cultural haves and have-nots, making biting social and political commentary while creating surrealistically believable imagery. Special for this exhibition, Turpin installed a series of new stereoscopic images in the museum's 1905 Cail-o-Scope nickel-operated viewer, allowing his work to mix the old and the new seamlessly.
Complementing Turpin's work are images selected from the Keystone- Mast Collection. These photographs range from straightforward historical documents to the images of foreign cultures Keystone promoted as educational (but to the modern viewer may sometimes seem discomfiting). These photographs illustrate some of the material that influences Turpin's work and help to further demonstrate the ways in which his work transcends linear time to compress history and culture in new ways. Although seemingly direct and unambiguous, some of the Keystone images are as surreal and strange as they newly created ones created by Turpin.
Ethan Turpin: Stereocollision has been organized by UCR California Museum of Photography, and curated by Leigh Gleason, Curator of Collections, UCR California Museum of Photography.
About the Artist
Ethan Turpin uses cameras to challenge and inform our view of the world. His creative practice spans across old and new media to experiment with visual and societal perception, most recently examining human relationships with nature. In the year 2000 he founded Bright Eye Cinema to create documentaries, promotional content, and video environments. Ethan Turpin’s mixed media, photography, video, print, and site-specific installation works have shown at Edward Cella Art and Architecture, Kala Art Institute, The Elverhoj Museum, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Perch Art Studio/Gallery, Robert Tat Gallery, Atkinson Gallery, and Krowswork Gallery. The 2010 Visions From The New California Award was granted to Turpin for his work with historical stereo photography. He received a BFA in 1997 from the Kansas City Art Institute. For more information on Turpin’s process for a creating “Stereocollision” see the video section of the artist’s website: http://ethanturpin.com.