Thoughts and questions on Brendan Threadgill’s recent exhibition at USC

Hi Brendan, I saw your show today (Jan. 13). Good work, I like the photos. I neglected to note the dates of any of the work, is it contemporary with what I have seen in your studio, or are these recent work that continue the project?

Looking at them, my first thought was of maps, and of oceans. Red areas for heights, and gold tones representing something like the dry and rugose terrain of Afghanistan maybe. The blue ones felt like those colored charts that flatly represent underwater surface features.The funny smallest one I took to be a blurred landscape.

These certainly are “photos of place without the familiar evidence of place” and this is true in the physical sense as well as psychologically. Visual cues that these photos came from somewhere include the scratches that seem to document the time spent in the dirt and with rocks.

Even with your avoidance of composition, the results are very aestheticized. This feels tricky and challenging to me, and somewhat satisfying, beauty must matter to you: I find that much of your work that I have seen manages to be beautiful while also pushing beyond simple beauty to historical investigation and political questioning.

That you separate yourself from the making, i.e. using a camera and choosing a shot, makes me think of the bombed automobile reconstructions you showed a few years ago, which are also beautifully crafted objects that were modeled on, well – not on an accident but maybe via some discard of unpredictable violence.

Where are you in all this, Brendan? Your drawings are manifestly made by hand, so perhaps your strategies depend upon your goals for the work?

Are you directing our attention away from yourself? Toward history? Is this indirection your means to make history available to us in a way that suggests without demanding mediation, and a political agenda? Because history is present in your work, if only by allusion.

The smallest photo, which appears to show some sky and clouds and a weird tunnel into light is remarkable. Honestly – I could look at that for a long time and still have questions about what I see. As much as a childhood hiding place, the photo resembles a fearsome tunnel used by soldiers – and perhaps also it depicts the view a buried IED would have waiting for a footstep.



Brendan Threadgill: Proving Ground was up at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts Graduate Fine Arts Building Gallery from January 9 through January 25, 2012

Examples of Threadgill’s work:

and on his own website

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