Howard Greenberg Gallery will show two exhibitions of the work of Joel Meyerowitz. Through June 21st: European Trip: Photographs from the Car presents forty images from 1966-67 made by Meyerowitz as he traveled in France, Greece, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria, Morocco, England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. The photographs have not been on view since their debut in a major New York museum exhibition in 1968. Through August 1st: the gallery will also show Meyerowitz’s new work, The Effect of France, a series of still lifes, mostly made at his home in Provence.
“During my European car trip in the 1960s, I often saw remarkable things fly by outside my window, things that would be gone had I stopped to go back to see what they were,” recalls Meyerowitz. “In a way the photographs in European Trip: Photographs from the Car comprise my first conceptual work. I thought of myself as sitting inside a moving camera on wheels, and that the window was the frame which showed me the continuous scrolling of events flying by outside. All those humble instants sped past me and left their heartbreaking beauty on film and in my memory. Life along the roadside still whizzes by at 60 miles per hour, and even though we have all kinds of advanced mechanics, the camera continues to be the only instrument that makes ordinary things seem momentous when we glimpse them in passing and recognize their innocence and beauty.”
While living in Provence a few years ago, Meyerowitz was inspired to buy a few odd objects as a gift for a friend he was visiting in Tuscany. But when he arrived in Tuscany, the objects suddenly “spoke” to him. “I saw their identity, so to speak, and began to put them, and a few other old objects I came across, into a kind of little theater space I created. After awhile, they seemed to step forward on the stage as individuals, and I found myself making ’portraits’ of them.” The portraits in The Effect of France were made mostly in dark spaces with a small skylight providing a soft weak light, much like the light Edward Weston used for his pepper. “In fact it was the funnel that Weston’s pepper was sitting in that suggested a tighter enclosed space to me as a place for these objects to stand in,” he explains.
Meyerowitz began to build various other spaces to house the objects—semicircles of rusted gas tank forms, folded leather butcher’s aprons, nineteenth-century linens that were stained and mottled, painted canvas backdrops, and corners built of old cardboard painted dark gray. “These objects seemed to have a new life, as if once more they could express something of their character, which is a touching sentiment to give to things that have been rendered useless,” he notes.