Yancey Richardson Gallery is pleased to present the first New York exhibition of critically-acclaimed photographer Anthony Hernandez (b.1947), opening Friday, September 15 from 6 to 8. The artist will be in attendance. Since the late 1960s, Hernandez’s photographs have revealed with formal integrity and bleak beauty, the harsh realities of his native Los Angeles. The exhibition is comprised of two of his most celebrated series, Landscapes for the Homeless, and Public Transit which will be presented in two separate spaces within the gallery. On view September 15 through October 20, Anthony Hernandez coincides with the opening of the artist’s eponymous career retrospective at the Milwaukee Art Museum which originated in Fall 2016 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Throughout his career, Hernandez has pursued a nuanced view of the physical and social landscape of Los Angeles. In Public Transit, 1979-80, Hernandez switched from a handheld 35mm to a 5 x 7” large format camera and tripod to create a new kind of street photography. Made at bus stops throughout the city, the large-scale black and white photographs capture the isolation of the urban metropolis through formally composed and carefully detailed views of desolate boulevards disappearing into the horizon, peopled only by the Los Angeles underclass waiting for the next bus. Jeff Wall, in his essay for the 2009 monographic exhibition he curated on Hernandez at the Vancouver Art Museum, relates the new approach of the Public Transit work to that of emerging Americans Stephen Shore and Robert Adams and the Germans Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky.
Landscapes for the Homeless, a series of color photographs made between 1988 and 1991, details with precision and restraint the empty encampments of the homeless, sheltered beneath the concrete freeway overpasses and in the brush of vacant lots found at the edge of downtown Los Angeles. Hernandez’s unsparing views investigate the environments and materials adapted to provide a modicum of privacy or comfort. A crude chair made of sheetrock, pants hung inside out on tree branches, a wall built of plywood and cardboard all stand in for their absent owners. The artist’s detailed tableaus balance a rigorous formal approach with a devastating social critique. Speaking of his homeless work, Hernandez says that he “puts you in his place. I’m right here. I’m looking at what he’s looking at”. When the photographs were made, the homeless population of the city was estimated at some 30,000 and declared a crisis. According to a recent Cornell University Study, it now stands at 60,000.
In recognition of the series, Robert Adams named Hernandez the 1995 recipient of the DG Bank-Forderpreis Fotografie, which awarded him a solo show at the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany. The accompanying monograph contains a conversation between the artist and his longtime colleague Lewis Baltz that relates the Landscapes for the Homeless imagery to Hernandez’s two-year tour as a medic in the Vietnam War and the dystopic movie Blade Runner. In response to Baltz’s declaration “L.A.’s destiny is to become Blade Runner”, Hernandez responds “This ground you talk about is ground zero…The people on the ground are the forgotten, and the ground is a human wasteland.” Subsequently, he adds, “The hardest pictures I ever made were the homeless pictures. I wasn’t in a war zone but it was as if I were.”