New York – William Eggleston: “At Zenith” at Gagosian Gallery, Through December 21st 2013

November 18th, 2013

William Eggleston, At Zenith I (1979-2013), Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
William Eggleston, At Zenith I (1979-2013), © Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

On view at Gagosian in New York is a unique exhibition of works by William Eggleston photographed during a road trip he took from Georgia to Tennessee in 1978. These photos of the sky taken with an early disposable camera are meant to evoke the feeling and aesthetics of classical paintings.

William Eggleston, At Zenith XIV (1979-2013), Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
William Eggleston, At Zenith XIV (1979-2013), © Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Born in 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee, Eggleston is recognized as “legitimizing” color photography as a high art medium.  Raised in Sumner, Mississippi by non-artist parents, he attended boarding school from the age of 15, and later Vanderbilt University, Delta State College, and the University of Mississippi, but never earned a college degree. During this time he gained an interest in photography, beginning when his friend at Vanderbilt gave him a Leica camera.  Eggleston began working with color photography in 1965, after being inspired by  William Christenberry, but Eggleston’s development as an artist occurred, for the most part, totally independent from other artists. In the later 1960s, color transparency film took most of his attention, and in 1969 he was “discovered” by John Szarkowski of the MoMA in New York, which soon afterward bought one of Eggleston’s photos. In 1973, after reading a price list in a photo lab which advertised dye-transfer printing as the “from the cheapest to the ultimate print,” Eggleston took an interest in this process, resulting in some of his most famous photographs. In 1976, Eggleston exhibited the first color photography display that the MoMA had ever shown.

William Eggleston, At Zenith IV (1979-2013), Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
William Eggleston, At Zenith IV (1979-2013), © Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

In recent years, Eggleston has printed images on a much larger scale due to advances in digital processes, which enhance an aesthetic that originated with dye-transfer. The fifteen images in this exhibition, titled At Zenith, were taken with an instant camera as he lay on the ground shooting directly up at the sky. The prints were selected from his Wedgwood Blue cloud series, which exclusively portray pieces of pure sky.

William Eggleston, At Zenith VI (1979-2013), Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
William Eggleston, At Zenith VI (1979-2013), © Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Alongside the exhibition, Steidl has released a new edition of William Eggleston: At Zenith, a full-color book featuring the series. The exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York will continue through December 21, 2013.

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Gagosian Gallery]