Barrow Cabins

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© Courtesy of the Artist and Rena Bransten Gallery
Barrow Cabins

1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
May 11th, 2013 - June 29th, 2013
Opening: May 11th, 2013 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Potrero District
Tue-Sat, 11-5


Eirik Johnson’s new series of photographic diptychs, Barrow Cabins, features winter and summer views of nine small Iñupiat Eskimo hunting cabins in Barrow, Alaska, a town 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 1300 miles south of the North Pole.  Extreme weather conditions and high winds necessitate a survivalist type of architecture there; buildings appear to be of scavenged materials - wood or pressed wood products, windows often sport plastic sheeting instead of glass, and all outbuildings seem to be “in process” and open to the elements.  Winter snows hide most signifiers of the Iñupiat’s domestic lives – raw wood cabins, outdoor sheds, and drying racks become white-on-white structures of quiet geometric complexity.  In summer the gray brown cabins blend in with the bare earth, the gravel roads, and dying grasses.  More intense colors are found in the sky, ribbons of distant water, and multi-purpose blue plastic sheeting that serves as windbreak, doors, walls, and rain wear or wraps; children’s tricycles and toys add further color spots.  Johnson’s photos document the cabins and seasons of Barrow, AK but they also reveal surprising details about the unseen society living there, one whose small population is both social and aesthetically sensitive: arranging chairs against an exterior cabin wall to enjoy the sun, scattering plastic toys to be enjoyed by all children, or adding an awkwardly built balcony and over-hang for a better view of the vast Arctic land and sea.    

Johnson was born in Seattle, WA and graduated with a BFA in Photography and a BA in History from the University of Washington, Seattle.  He received an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2003.  His work is included in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; and George Eastman House, Rochester, NY among others.     

Walk-through with the artist: Saturday, May 11, 3-4pm

Reception: Saturday, May 11, 4-6pm