Eggleston is a big deal in the photography world. He is credited with the invention, or at least the dispersions of the idea of color photography. His work is legendary. Through the 60s and 70s he took America in it’s bleakest condition and added a splash of color.
Sometime in the mid 90s, Eggleston started taking pictures of clouds from his car window. From there he naturally progressed to taking pictures of clouds as an art form, focusing his lens skyward and capturing what’s above.
At first view, someone unfamiliar with Eggleston’s work would perhaps say, “These are just pictures of clouds.” The word ‘just’ is very important. Employing a time tested method, I made my way to the gallery with someone completely ignorant of not only Eggleston, but of artistic photography in general.
“These are just pictures of clouds.”
“Fine, these are pictures of clouds.”
“They are a Rorschach test. You can see anything in them.”
“I see clouds.”
What my friend lacked was a reference point. The clouds are clouds and our brains perceive the images. Young children lay in the grass looking up at the clouds and see rabbits, dragons, faces – but ultimately, they see clouds.
The Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto takes pictures of the sea. His pictures, black and white, all look fairly similar. They look like the sea. Black and white, with a flat clear sky of gray separated by the horizon from a darker ruffled mass. So why is Sugimoto lauded for his seascapes, while I poke fun at Eggleston?
The Japanese are known for their minimalist approach to art. There is a history that welcomes Sugimoto into their ranks. We go to an Eggleston show expecting the same thing he was doing 10, 20 years ago. The artist must move forward, and the pictures should be scrutinized as new work.
The cloudscapes are innocent. The sky is blue and I see a Rhino in the white curls.
Review by John Hutt
WILLIAM EGGLESTON At Zenith I, 1979-2013 (C) Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.