Actions and Detail Panel
Uncommon Journeys - Jan Staller '70
Wed, April 5, 2017, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EDT
Join us for a special talk by Simon's Rock alum Jan Staller '70: Regarding the Disregarded
Artist's Talk & Presentation: April 5th at 7:00 p.m. at McConnell Theater followed by a light reception
In conjunction with an exhibition through May 1 in the Hillman-Jackson Gallery on campus, celebrated photographer and Simon’s Rock alum Jan Staller walks us through his extraordinary career finding inspiration in the edges of urban and industrial landscapes. Over many years, Jan has elegantly photographed subjects that most of us tend not to observe including recycled scrap, twisted steel and roadways speckled with trash as well as years of untrammeled snows in New York City. His work has appeared in New York Times Magazine, Life, Fortune, and Forbes. He has published two books Frontier New York and On Planet Earth.
Current Exhibition at Simon's Rock:
March 29 - May 1, 2017
Hillman-Jackson Gallery / Daniel Arts Center
Bard College at Simon's Rock
About Jan Staller
For more than 40 years, Jan Staller has been photographing subject matter thought by most to have little interest.While grand and impressive sights are often photographers’ subjects, Staller’s imagery is less about the intrinsic appeal of the subject and more about the transformative qualities of the medium. In paying close attention to sites most would pass by without notice, Staller has created a surprising and fascinating study of the built environment.
During the mid 1970s, Staller moved to New York City. Reacting to the predominant genre of “American Road Trip” photography on view in galleries, magazines and books, Staller resolved to photograph at home. Believing that there was more to photography than bringing back the far-flung and unfamiliar, he approached his immediate surroundings as a kind of mind travel. It wasn’t the monumental architecture or landmarks of New York that captivated Staller; it was at the edges of the city where he found his inspiration.
With the 1970s New York City was at its nadir, much of its cityscape was derelict and abandoned. In being disused, it offered a kind of refuge from the more prosperous and bustling areas of the city. It was this kind of experience that drew Staller to photograph the lower west side of Manhattan and Hudson river. The earliest works in the exhibit were chosen from this period. Drawing inspiration from the paintings of Edward Hopper and Georgio De Chirico as well as photo secessionism, these works are richly theatrical and surreal. Their uncanny qualities were due to color films’ response to the qualities of weather, and the mixture of natural and street light. In the glaring yellowish light cast by a nearby Sodium Vapor street light, Eleventh Avenue Firebox becomes a luminous stage set, the only prop, a faded fire alarm topped with a glowing orange dome. In Gansevoort Street, a shaft of blue light emanates from a dilapidated shed. Mixed light and the effects of weather typified Staller’s work though the 1980s.
By the 1990s Staller’s work evolved: There would be more distant travels; his interest in the built world remained consistent, but the imagery became more abstract and reductive. With an eye enlightened by the contemporary drawing, sculpture and painting he had seen in galleries and museums, Staller began to see every day subjects as ready-made art. In vacant lots, landfills and farms, Staller found his metier. By this time, he was working mainly with natural light, moving closer in on his subjects, framing objects so that they appear in the photographs as objects resembling sculpture.