New York – Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures, through March 9th 2013

February 25th, 2013

Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures

American artist, geographer, and author Trevor Paglen’s first solo exhibition at Metro Pictures has opened this month, a selection of large color prints and black-and-white diptychs related to his ongoing project, The Last Pictures.  Compiling a striking collection of photographs from across the wide spectrum of human experience, Paglen creates a static document of mankind, flung into the Earth’s orbit.

Trevor Paglen (Installation view), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen opening at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Daniel Creahan for ArtObserved

The Last Pictures (2012) is a series of 100 images which were loaded onto a micro-etched disc and launched into space from Kazakhstan on EchoStar XVI, a communications satellite orbiting the Earth, with the intent of preserving a snapshot of human existence for future civilizations to discover.  The exhibition is comprised of a series of video works, photographs, various artifacts pertaining to the satellite’s launch, and a number of historical models and documents.

Trevor Paglen, The Last Pictures (Warning from Space; Demonstration of Eating, Licking and Drinking), (2012), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen, The Last Pictures (Warning from Space; Demonstration of Eating, Licking and Drinking), (2012), via Metro Pictures

Perhaps most striking is Angelus Novus (2012), depicting the backside of Paul Klee’s 1920 painting of the same name.  Referencing both Klee’s forward-thinking practice and “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940) by philosopher Walter Benjamin, Paglen revisits Marxist theories of economic, humanitarian and political crises throughout history  through the metaphorical “the ‘angel of history,” facing the past, but “propelled backwards into the future by the ongoing explosions of the present.”

Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures

Taken as a whole, Paglen’s exhibition offers a striking condensation of the human experience.  At a time where humanity has resigned itself against further exploration of the solar system via shuttle, Paglen turns the camera both inwards and to the skies, examining the crises and joys of today’s Earth, while looking outwards to the stars in contemplation of the grand design.

Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures

The Last Pictures was published by the University of California Press and Creative Time Books, and was discussed by filmmaker Werner Herzog in an event held in September 2012 at New York’s Bryant Park.

Trevor Paglen, The Last Pictures (Construction of Hoover Dam; The Wow! Signal) (2012), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen, The Last Pictures (Construction of Hoover Dam; The Wow! Signal) (2012), via Metro Pictures

2007 Eyebeam Commisioned Artist Trevor Paglen’s photographic and other visual works have been displayed at MassMoca, Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Bellwether Gallery in New York, and Lighthouse in London, among others. In addition to his visual work, Paglen coined the term “Experimental Geography” with his 2009 book Experimental Geography: Radial Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism.

Trevor Paglen, COSMOS 2084 in Draco (Russian Oko ["Eye"] Early-Warning Satellite) (2012), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen, COSMOS 2084 in Draco (Russian Oko [“Eye”] Early-Warning Satellite) (2012), via Metro Pictures

2007 Eyebeam Commisioned Artist Trevor Paglen’s photographic and other visual works have been displayed at MassMoca, Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Bellwether Gallery in New York, and Lighthouse in London, among others. In addition to his visual work, Paglen coined the term “Experimental Geography” with his 2009 book Experimental Geography: Radial Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism.

Trevor Paglen, Singleton/SBW ASS-R1 and Three Unidentified Spacecraft (Space Based Wide Area Surveillance System; USA 32), (2012), via Metro Pictures

Paglen himself will give tours of the exhibition every Saturday at 3pm, except for February 23rd; the exhibition will continue through March 9th, 2013.

Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures

Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures
Trevor Paglen at Metro Pictures (Installation View), via Metro Pictures

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Metro Pictures]
Artist Website [Trevor Paglen]
The Straddler [The Last Secrets: Trevor Paglen in conversation with The Straddler]