Text by Lucy Wilkinson.
Deemed as one of the most important photographers working today, Philip Lorca diCorcia has imported his documentary photography over to The Hepworth Wakefield to introduce Yorkshire to an über American existence. As the gallery’s first photography exhibition and diCorcia’s first solo UK debut, the curation simulates the same principal quality behind the works – seemingly straightforward but meticulously arranged.
The works presented in this show span over all four decades of diCorcia’s artistic career to the present day. Over 70 works from his primary series, A Storybook Life (1975 – 99), are presented upon entrance of the exhibition. In this transformed gallery, diCorcia is introduced with the carefully edited yet comprehensive survey of his early works. These orchestrated snapshots act as a kind of biographical portrait and instantly account his infamous command of his medium and wily intelligence. Director of ICA in Boston, Jill Medvedow defined diCorcia’s work as: ‘frozen moments in time in the midst of streets, rooms and landscapes that are full of motion.' This unsettling combination of statis and movement certainly creates a tautness and reveals the careful planning needed to portray flux in stilled time. Walking around the expansive Gallery 10 at The Hepworth Wakefield, obvious stills within speed can be dissected from the finer details of the pictures such as the opening of the subway doors or the TV screen inbetween changing scenes. These delicate components determine that these informal settings, from New Haven to Antipaxos, were very much inhabited and in motion. The images of a dinner plate balanced on the side of an armchair and a couple at the beginning of a kiss depict a seemingly true reality recognisable to all.
A later extension of these complex and uncanny realities that tread between documentation and fiction are shown Galleries 7 and 9 with his series entitled Heads and Hustlers. Presented in the form of Fuji Crystal Archive prints, Heads comprises of zoom-lens portraits of various people passing through Times Square, New York. DiCorcia used a complex lighting system, triggered at exact moments to capture and completely expose the chosen figure. Scouting and spying the charm of a chosen individual within the crowd, these photographs hone in on the individual psyche that exists amongst the thoroughfare of a bustling city. When accounting for the focus on the brooding expressionistic tableaux, it is no surprise to learn that his Yale classmates includes the likes of Nan Goldin, David Armstrong and Mark Morrisoe.
From his earliest photographs, which stage minor dramas in domestic settings around his native Hartford, Conneticut to his Caravaggio-esque portraits of falling pole dancers in their contorted physicality – his approach as a realist has consistently brought new ideas and methods to 20th century photographic traditions. This exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield playfully toys with the theoretical debate that the creation of any image requires at least some level of precision and proves that the underestimated and often devalued medium of photography is very much open to a thriving examination in a world where millions of images are created everyday.
Image: Philip-Lorca diCorcia, ‘DeBruce’, 1999. Courtesy the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin/London and David Zwirner, New York/London
Lucy Wilkinson is an Art History graduate and writer based in Leeds
Medvedow, J. Philip Lorca diCorcia (2007) pp.7