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Bruce Silverstein Gallery opens an exhibition of new work by artist Brea Souders
Brea Souders, Untitled #27 (from Vistas), 2020. Unique archival pigment print with watercolor, 12 x 17 in.

NEW YORK, NY.- Bruce Silverstein Gallery is presenting an exhibition of new work by Brooklyn-based artist Brea Souders titled Vistas.

Vistas is a series of hand-colored photographs that present disembodied shadows of human beings found in national parks throughout the American West. While researching Google Photo Sphere images of the parks, the artist observed that the algorithm removed people from its shared photos, seemingly for privacy reasons, but left behind their distorted and artifacted shadows. The shadows are shown just as the artist found them, the result of the west’s radiant sun and algorithmic interventions. The original photographs were made deep in nature, by individuals who trekked to areas where roads or trails don’t exist.

Referencing early twentieth-century picture postcards of the American West, the hand-colored prints of Vistas recall bygone methods that were used to romanticize interactions with the natural world. Today, most armchair travel is filtered through the internet. We regularly see shadow selfies in landscapes in our social media feeds, echoing previous moments through photographic history. Vistas was made at a time when climate change is already altering the national parks and conservation efforts will need to be modified to adapt to profound change. Commenting in Lensculture, Gregory Eddi Jones said, “Our growing dependence and assimilation into virtual space brings us further from the natural world, turning Vistas into a tug-of-war between what we once were as humans, and what we are now. Photography has changed us, the internet is changing us. And Souders’ work helps to illustrate just how so.”

The viewer’s placement in relation to these scenes suggests a witnessing of their own selves, transmuted into archetypal forms populating the land. Traces of wanderers, cowboys, adventurers and earth goddesses can be imagined in the shadows imprinted in the land. In Vistas, many of the shadows appear to have feminine forms. Though photography of the American West has long been thought to be the domain of men, here we see evidence of women trekking into the wild, documenting and mapping it.

These works enter into the long traditions of American landscape photography. The series poses a plurality of questions centering on how our relationship to nature has evolved and is changing, how our virtually mediated world is affecting human behavior, and the roles that photography plays in ecology, mapping, tourism, sublimity and representation of the self. As we witness accelerating effects of our global climate crisis, and as modern living continually brings us further from our origins, Vistas explores what the landscape means to us now.

The exhibition features a large installation of hand-colored photographs, as well as several large-format, hand-colored works. In addition to the hand-colored pieces, a small selection of black-and-white images is shown, gathering together found shadows of hands holding phones in the Western landscape.

Concurrent with the opening of the exhibition, a monograph of Souders’ work spanning 11 years will be published and available by Saint Lucy Books.

Brea Souders is a visual artist working primarily with photography. Her work has been shown internationally, including solo exhibitions with Abrons Arts Center, Baxter St. at CCNY and Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York, as well as the Centre Photographique Rouen Normandie, France and the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives, Canada. She has received grants and fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Millay Colony for the Arts and the National Arts Club. Her third artist book, Magnetic Eels, was published in 2018 with Silent Face Projects. Souders’ work has been the subject of features in the New York Times, ARTnews, the Jeu de Paume Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books and the New Yorker. Her work is included in the books The Photograph as Contemporary Art (Thames & Hudson); Feelings: Soft Art (Rizzoli); How Color Works (Oxford University Press); and Photography is Magic (Aperture), by Charlotte Cotton. Her first monograph Brea Souders : eleven years is published by Saint Lucy Books.

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