Sikkema Jenkins & Co. is pleased to present an exhibition of a new series of black and white photographs by Mitch Epstein on view from March 16 through April 14, 2012.
Mitch Epstein’s new work features the idiosyncratic trees that populate New York City, underscoring the importance of trees in urban life and their complex relationship with the city’s human dwellers.
Trees have long been a leitmotiv in Epstein’s projects, especially in his series American Power (2003-2008). After five years of photographing the manifestations of energy production and consumption across the United States, Epstein decided to make pictures that reflect how he, “would like to see the world, not simply how I have inherited it.”
Epstein began this yearlong project in search of designated Great Trees, as deemed by the Parks Department in 1985. Finding these trees was less important to Epstein than the pursuit of them, which led him to discover and photograph numerous unofficial “great” trees with remarkable qualities of their own.
From Parsons Boulevard, Flushing to Sprague Avenue, Staten Island to Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Epstein returned to photograph the same trees through changing light and seasons. The resulting photographs invert people’s usual view of their city: trees no longer function as background or landscape, but, instead, become the focus of the image, dominating the human life and architecture around them.
Through his work on the series, Epstein came to appreciate how the trees’ surroundings and their relationship to the city have changed continually throughout their long lifespan. Many of these trees were planted in a different context from the urban environment that now surrounds them. Likewise, over time, the city’s own relationship to trees has shifted: citizens created community gardens in the 1970s, which were overtaken by developers and city government in the 1990s. In the last decade, New Yorkers have become increasingly protective of their trees, which will most likely outlive us to witness the city’s continued evolution.
Living and working in New York, Mitch Epstein is a pioneer of color photography, who began to redefine it as an art form nearly forty years ago.
Mitch Epstein’s photographs are in New York’s Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tate Modern in London, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. Epstein has had recent solo exhibitions at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris (2011), Kunstmuseum Bonn (2011) Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne (2011) and Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool (2011). The Thomas Zander Gallery in Cologne will hold an exhibition of Epstein’s work in the fall 2012.
His eight books include Berlin (Steidl & The American Academy in Berlin, 2011), American Power (Steidl, 2009), Mitch Epstein: Work (Steidl, 2006), Recreation: American Photographs 1973-1988 (Steidl 2005), and Family Business (Steidl 2003), which received the Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award.
A Guggenheim Fellow and Prix Pictet laureate, Epstein has also worked as a director, cinematographer, and production designer on several films, including Dad, Salaam Bombay!, and Mississippi Masala.