Josh Winer’s work is a part of an ongoing series depicting landscapes in flux. Using a view camera in the tradition of 19 th century Western photographers, Winer travels to scenes of earth as raw material or by-product: a quarry filled in with excess dirt from the Big Dig in Quincy, a gravel pit in Vermont, and a stockpile of road salt under a bridge in Chelsea. While the photographers of the US geological surveys documented for the purposes of expansion, namely the railroad, Winer’s work addresses in part New England’s penchant for reclamation, transformation, and the automobile. Here the land is a discursive space, Winer claims, and becomes “an agent of our ambitions and desires.”
The only indication of specificity comes via Winer’s choice of titling his compositions using their GPS coordinates. This point of entry, however, is paradoxical, and ultimately invites and releases viewers. We could return to the vicinity, but similar to the Greek philosopher’s adage that "one can never step into the same river twice," once recorded, these landscapes have indelibly changed. These piles are building blocks and leftovers from other sites, destined to move and be torn down at will. One is struck by the lunar quality of many of the scenes (an imprint from a construction vehicle might be likened to a moon rover) leading us to consider just how minimal can a landscape actually be? Viewers are plunged into the picture plane with little or no indication of the place—the periphery becomes the focus—and we apprehend the place-in-itself. Although initially alluding to the hand of man and commercial and political ambitions, agency sometimes seems transferred to the earth. Sand and rocks fall, and ultimately, gravity and entropy take over. We thus witness the land being marked, and also marking itself.Winer received his MFA in photography from Massachusetts College of Art in 2004. He has served as the media stockroom manager at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Boston Photo Collaborative. Recently, he accepted a position as Lab Manager and Adjunct Faculty at the Art Institute of Boston. His first solo show was at Clifford•Smith Gallery in October 2004.
- Leslie K. Brown
We know instinctively that the modern landscape is largely a construction of the shared history of human existence on the earth to the present day. Trees and forests grow where they are planted or allowed to thrive, hillsides and mountains are modified to speed commerce, and even the lawns attached to individual houses are carefully manicured with a deliberate, meticulous eye. Considering the combined weight of all these activities, the very definition of Landscape, like the land itself, becomes fleeting.
But this picture plane, the world-at-large, is one of our oldest cultural mirrors. We see the landscape imbued with references to our individual aesthetics, perspectives, ideals, and goals as well as shared cultural values. Beyond the historical landscape-as-place or point-of-view aesthetic, there is also a prevalent sensibility that the landscape is a text—one that tells us the stories of who we are and what we may become.
In conversation with ourselves, we seek perfection through an evolution of constant change. We construct and demolish not only buildings but also the very foundation of the earth itself. We mine, tunnel and move mountains with seeming impunity. The process of these acts, however, is often secondary to the end results. When a project is complete, we know by looking; the final action is that of a so-called "landscaper" who reconstructs a simulated natural state and thereby completes a work of man-made fiction.In each of these actions, the landscape itself becomes a source of history of the place, one where the narratives of our lives are both literally and figuratively displayed before us and hidden at the same time. These photographs seek an exploration of both the process and history of our desires, the deeds that follow and the evidence we leave behind.
Captions, left to right:
42° 57’ 11N, 073° 12’ 24W , 2004, C-print, 40 x 50 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Clifford•Smith Gallery
42° 57' 04N, 073° 12' 20W, 2004, C-print, 30 x 40 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Clifford•Smith Gallery
42° 23' 13N, 071° 02' 12W, 2004, C-print, 30 x 40 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Clifford•Smith Gallery
Copyright © 2002, Photographic Resource Center, Inc.