Benrubi Gallery is pleased to announce Stratographs by Simon Norfolk, two series of photographs that document the impress of days, months, and years on the surface of the planet. This is Norfolk's fourth exhibition with Benrubi, as well as the inaugural exhibition at the gallery's new Chelsea location.
In October 2014, Norfolk traveled to Kenya to record the dramatic decline of the Lewis Glacier, which has been receding for the past eighty years. Using old maps and modern GPS surveys, Norfolk charted the glacier's previous boundaries, then set his camera for hour-long exposures and walked the former outline while carrying a petroleum torch. The resulting images enclose the diminished glacier in a fiery border, as if Norfolk is inscribing the epitaph of the glacier on the earth itself. Fire is juxtaposed against ice, yet the dominant images are of earth and air, which are all that will remain after "the poor, doomed glacier" has completely melted.
The sense of loss in the Kenya images is balanced by the curious, even hopeful serenity of Norfolk's photographs of the war-ravaged Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan, once famous for its 170-foot-tall Buddhas, now infamous for their destruction at the hands of the Taliban in 2001. Norfolk photographed more than a dozen locations in the valley on a seasonal basis. A pair of abandoned Soviet tanks stand in a field. Trash accumulates, is replaced by flowers, then by snow; the field is tilled, crops grow, disappear in the harvest. A small village stands on the plain before a cliff wall dotted by hundreds of cave mouths, as well as the alcoves that once held the statues of the 1400-year-old Buddhas. The niches are empty now, but so too are the windows of many of the buildings in the village, bare in one photograph, covered by tarp in the next, then bare again-practical responses to the daily realities of life that humanize a loss so monumental that it can easily become abstract. Ultimately, however, the cyclical nature of Norfolk's images conveys a sense of perseverance and strength, both human and natural. Snow falls and melts, the leaves wither and return, the land is plowed, planted, and harvested. "The main creation of Afghan culture is the landscape itself," the artist has said, "but one has to stop, sit quietly and take time, to see it at work."
Simon Norfolk (born in Lagos, Nigeria, 1963) completed his education at Oxford and Bristol University in the U.K. His work has been widely recognized: he has won The Discovery Prize at Les Rencontres d'Arles in 2005; the Infinity Prize from The International Center of Photography in 2004; and the European Publishing Award in 2002. In 2003 he was shortlisted for the Citibank Prize (now known as the Deutsche Böurse Prize), and in 2013 he won the Prix Pictet Commission. His work has been shown internationally, and is held in many major collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Getty in Los Angeles, SF MOMA, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, TX, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. In 2011 the Tate Modern in London held a solo exhibition of his Burke+Norfolk series.
Exhibition Dates: February 5 - March 21, 2015
Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 6pm
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Brighton, England-based Simon Norfolk, described by one critic as “the leading documentary photographer of our time,” is a landscape photographer whose work over fifteen years has been themed around a probing of the word “battlefield” in all its forms. Born in Nigeria and educated at Oxford and Bristol Universities, where he studied philosophy and sociology, Norfolk has photographed in some of the world’s worst warzones and refugee crises, but is equally at home photographing supercomputers used to design military systems or test launches of nuclear missiles.
Of Full Spectrum Dominance, Norfolk’s photographs of missiles, rockets, and satellites in America, he has said, “The bewildering beauty of what human ingenuity can achieve when given endless resources collides with the appalling disposal of those assets on new and more brilliant ways to kill people. Nowhere is this clearer than what I call the Military Sublime - for example the nuclear missiles and satellite launches pictured here.” His most recent series, Burke+Norfolk, inspired by the work of nineteenth-century photographer John Burke, documents the ongoing consequences of the war in Afghanistan, which Norfolk first photographed in 2001.
He has produced four monographs of his work, including Afghanistan: Chronotopia( 2002); For Most Of It I Have No Words (1998), about the landscapes of genocide; Bleed (2005), about the war in Bosnia; and, most recently, Burke+Norfolk: Photographs From the War in Afghanistan (2011).
His work has been widely recognized: he has won The Discovery Prize at Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2005; the Infinity Prize from The International Center of Photography in 2004; and the European Publishing Award in 2002. In 2003 he was shortlisted for the Citibank Prize (now known as the Deutsche Böurse Prize), and in 2013 he won the Prix Pictet Commission. His work has been shown internatinally, and is held in many major collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Getty in Los Angeles, SF MOMA, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, TX, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. In 2011 his Burke+Norfolk work was a solo show at Tate Modern.