Arne Svenson: The Neighbors - New Photographs

January 12 - February 9, 2013 [portfolio_slideshow click=lightbox]

Western Project is proud to present the third solo exhibition by New York artist, Arne Svenson. Known for his eccentric interpretations of the everyday and familiar, the artist has found new inspiration in the windows of  high-rise condominiums. A social, class and aesthetic study, The Neighbors, is a subtle yet provocative body of work for our time. About his large scale photographs, Svenson writes:

For my subjects there is no question of privacy; they are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high.

Some time ago a birding friend passed away and I inherited his telephoto lens. Having no interest in birds, I turned to the residents of a glass-walled apartment building across the street from my studio. The Neighbors don't know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my space into theirs. I am not unlike the birder, quietly waiting for hours, watching for the flutter of a hand or the movement of a curtain as an indication that there is life within.

As the Neighbors move into and out of their prosceniums, divergent narratives are created in the segmented windowpanes. Day and night, obstructed only by reflections, the patina of dust on glass and occasional pulled curtain I am at the window, waiting for those curtains to part again and for the tableaux to materialize, for the performance to begin.

Using the architectural grid structure of the condominium building, Svenson recalls Mondrian compositions with iconic imagery. His pictures play the spectrum of the intimate to the operatic; shadowed singles frozen in computer light to domestic turmoil, each a minimalist drama. Ordinary urban life is captured in classic fragments hinting at larger stories, a kind of burlesque Manet, perhaps with more sinister undertones, or absurd folly. Svenson’s pictures mirror our cultural curiosity and preoccupation with other people’s lives – think Facebook, reality television shows, etc. Voyeuristic or investigative, The Neighbors pictures are social documentation. Focused on the wealthy, with a forensic precision, they ultimately present discreet human moments, unscripted and random. Ironically, each a rare, private and natural instant in our camera obsessed world.

Svenson recently completed the solo exhibition About Face, at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. His work is in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, among others. His books include: Strays (2012), Chewed (2011). Unspeakable Likeness (2010), Mrs. Ballard’s Parrots (2005), Prisoners (1997), Sock Monkeys (200 out of 1,863) (2003). He is the recipient of the 2008 Nancy Graves Foundation grant, and the 2005 James D. Phelan Art Award in Photography. He has shown consistently across the United States and in Europe.