Photographs Merging Urban Landscapes and Humanity: Fine Art Photography From a Joint Exhibition @ A Gathering of the Tribes
February 8 - 15, 2014
The highly energized yet, at times, startlingly tranquil exhibition of art photography by native New York photographer, Eugene Hyon, organizer and curator at A Gathering of the Tribes on East 3rd Street in Manhattan, was an original artist's view of urbanites and cityscapes not to be missed. The gallery show entitled, Urban Landscape and People: A Symbiosis of Nature and Culture, was a joint showing of recent works by him and Multimedia Artist, Musician and Professor of Fine Arts, Pilar Viviente of the University Miguel Hernandez, Altea, Valencia, Spain. Included in the week-long exhibition were art-evoked poetry recitals by Howard Pflanzer and Helen Peterson. There were also piano improvisations by Prof. Viviente and Richard Clements, enriched by the art.
Artistic and Photographic Styles and Methods of Exhibitors
In her abstract multimedia art works, Viviente strongly projects the message, "Save Nature, Save Culture!" She reveals the symbiotic relationship between the two as primary factors supporting humankind's reliance on both nature and culture in building a healthful, functional and rewarding urban habitat. Starting from stacked constructions of books and CD cases as model city scenes, she creates the familiar dynamics of brightly lit skyscrapers against dense night darkness. With touches of color, she adds sparks of light to the ebony sky, and in some paintings, an over-glaze of translucent brush-strokes of color to lend a Zen-like mystique of reassuring continuity.
In sharp but pleasing contrast to her style, Hyon magnifies, demystifies and dramatizes the organic, pliable balances that underlie the urban environmental core and humanity. By combining three distinctive modes of understanding and focus through his lens─spiritual, poetic and painterly, he artfully guides his viewers to a realization of these balances against the characteristic, somewhat predictable background of city buildings. Yet through his unique lens and vision, nothing is quite predictable or totally definable, and this is what makes his photographs at once arresting and reassuring.
Within his compositions, there is an outward appearance of simplicity, but after a deeper look are layers of subtle complexity that interplay with blatent verity in areas of seemingly opaque mystery. By means of these creative balances and layers of death, destruction, decay, vibrant energy, vitality and extreme beauty, he very astutely and artistically shows us specific aspects of the totality of the active urban lifestyle, death mode, and the stages of existence and experience among them all. We find ourselves absorbed and fascinated by these facets depicted, minus any tendency toward hesitancy or avoidance of viewing even the most destructive or disparaging scenes. We delight in the lighter moments and grieve with or ponder on the darker ones. As a highly accomplished artist, photographer and philosopher, he is able to guide viewers of his works through the complete essence and embodiment of each moment in time, human experience and artistic vision that he captures and conveys.
Eugene Hyon’s Artistic Journey Traced
Hyon’s personal involvement with photography began in the late 1960s, working with his father who was an independent commercial black and white darkroom/studio photographer focusing mainly on fashion, industrial and commercial subjects in New York City. Quoting from him, "There is 'magic' in having a photographic idea and letting it materialize, then doing as many different things with it. I have watched as this transformative process took on a life of its own."
When discussing his art photography, he states, "My work has been described by others as down-to-earth, intimate, mysterious, evocative and visionary. No matter the description, I seek to turn the everyday experience into an extraordinary 'non-ephemeral' moment from the very things that others take for granted." He works with black and white, because it clearly communicates the barest essence of the idiosyncrasies and attributes of our environment and is most suitable for depicting nostalgia. He explains that use of color grasps and concisely conveys instants in the "here and now" modern surroundings.
His art photography has been substantially influenced by the late 19th and early 20th Century photographic works of Eugene Atget, Berenice Abbott, Andre Kertesz, Paul Strand, and Irving Penn. Additional interests of his include living as an integral part of nature and traveling to distant destinations, preferably on the fringes of society.
Hyon’s Individual Art Photography Works on Display
His works of art photography speak to us on different levels. For example, in his fine art photographs entitled, Beard Street Slip and Beard Street Slip II, the use of sepia toning lends a touch of history and nostalgic warmth to the still, deserted scenes of factory buildings and open structures in Brooklyn built around the 19th Century behind empty boats moored at the weathered dock. What is especially evident is that the subtlety of the sepia tones in both works elevate unpretentious, ordinary and true-to-life scenes to classical levels of composition and proportion, as well as evoke by-gone days. The viewers are transported into an alternate reality that looks back in time without having to leave the present. If one looks closely within the photographs, there are only contemporary boats and cars along the docks and streets.
In the stark reality of the scene depicted in Mannequin on Van Brunt, the damaged yet stylish legs of a discarded mannequin dangle over the edge of a large industrial garbage bin. On one level, these legs, though mud or blood-stained and grotesque in their embodiment of a life roughly lost, hint at a previous lifestyle of posed elegance and beauty. Since the torso, head and arms are not visible, this former figure and existence may compel the viewer to imagine horrors underneath the pile of refuse. On a second level, the whole picture takes on a completely surreal vision with half a woman's figure left dangling off the side of the boat. The third level deals with the actual context, which is the collection of damaged commercial artifacts inflicted by Hurricane Sandy.
In Sunken Taxis, a large fleet of yellow city cabs lies dormant and half-submerged in a flooded parking lot. Their yellow exteriors are offset by the dark murkiness of the rising water engulfing them. With a wide-angle lens, the diamond-like geometry of the grouping of taxis is exaggerated almost to the point of saying that even in state of being engulfed during a super storm like Hurricane Sandy, order somehow survives disruption and chaos. This makes one think that there still might be hope for society and culture in the face of ever more destructive and uncontrollable floods of the urban landscape created by Global Warming.
In Cooling Off On Milton Street, a young man and woman in swimsuits enjoy the cool, forceful spray of water from an opened fire hydrant on a hot day in a city neighborhood. Water, which is a theme that runs throughout the entire exhibition, is seen here in it's benevolent and most controlled form, completely in the service of humanity for pleasure. In the background, the orange and white cylindrical warning barriers surrounding a parked heavy construction vehicle typify the constant mix of different residential and commercial/industrial environments, accessories and attitudes in city environments. The human spirit, culture and social interaction are a reflection of the natural world, even if that natural world manifests itself in an urban environment. Humanity shapes itself around the urban landscape as much as the urban landscape shapes humanity.
Greenpoint Welcome shows the large, nearly street-to-rooftop sign on the side of an urban building. Of prominence are the expansive block letters "BK" for "Brooklyn." They are a curiosity, because of the difficulty in determining whether the ghoulish graffiti lettering was the original work of the artist or added by passersby afterward, as well as strangely reminiscent of European political propaganda posters of the 1930s. The three figures rushing off with a baby-in-stroller down the sidewalk bring a sense of normalcy to the overall scene.
In the art photography displayed in this exhibition, Hyon has definitely transformed ordinary objects, scenes and experiences into bigger than life, non-ephemeral time segments. With his choice of subject matter that is often overlooked or taken for granted by others, he artfully applies his unique spiritual, poetic and painterly perspectives to focus his lens. The result is a visionary's diversified and complex, yet direct and concisely dynamic art photography. The intimate and warm humanistic qualities of urban life merge with its stark, bold and often harsh realities. With artistic expertise, he captures the very heart of the commercial-industrial impact on city dwellers and environments in subtle sepia, honest black and white or playful, emotional and infinite gradations of color.
Eugene Hyon's link: http://about.me/eugenehyon/#
Eugene Hyon, photographer, writer and collaborator with Ellen Gilmer. Ellen Gilmer, writer, Culture & Art section, IMPress/International Press Association Publication, an online magazine. Article published March 6, 2014.