The Colorful Life of the Commonplace
Sing the virtues and the scintillating color of vacuum cleaners, car trunks and back alleys, of everything and everywhere unprepossessing, generally unnoticed and unrelentingly commonplace, and you will have an ode by William Eggleston called “The Democratic Forest.” Through Saturday, the David Zwirner Gallery has on view a fine selection of more than 40 photographs, most not previously exhibited, culled from an unostentatiously autobiographical chronicle of Mr. Eggleston’s travels across America and parts of Europe from 1983 to ’86. The rest of this epic of the mundane — 1,000 images — can be seen in Steidl’s recent reissue of a 10-volume set of the same title.
The democracy Mr. Eggleston has in mind is the equivalence of all objects before the camera. As Shakespeare put it, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” And photographers have long thought that what is ordinarily ignored is worth a look. And worth seeing, which takes more time, perception and talent. Perhaps the forest is what we do not see for the trees, the normally uninteresting beauties of everyday life in everyday places. This is how we live, among kitchen sinks and highways, water hoses and roadside stands, which, in these instances, are often rural, often Southern, familiarly human. Mr. Eggleston’s adroit compositions and vibrant light teasingly suggest that a larger story lurks within the minutiae of everyday existence.
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