THIS GRAND SHOW
Richard Renaldi's new images are a meditation on the narrative power of pure landscape photography and a rereading of the American story inscribed across a damaged land. Inspired by the words of preservationist John Muir, who witnessed his absolute faith in America's wilderness clash with the imperatives of the twentieth century, Renaldi's new work occasions a present-day evaluation of Muir's vision on the 100th anniversary of his death.
Working with references to Muir contemporaries Timothy O'Sullivan and Thomas Moran, Renaldi looks for iconic and densely metaphorical vistas. In "Monument Valley, Utah" a classic view of the Navajo monoliths is punctuated by the serene figure of a dog sleeping in the foreground, oblivious of the approaching shadow of night. The image is somehow tranquil, yet menacing. In "Sumatra, Montana," two horses seek refuge from the prairie sun and wind, an ancient clapboard house the only visible shelter for miles around.
A diptych titled "The Big Top; Geneva, Ohio" reveals a canvass night sky stretched over a nearly empty circus, the only figures a lone trainer and the ghostly blur of a trapeze artist swinging like a pendulum in the center of the ring. When P.T. Barnum branded his traveling circus the "Greatest Show on Earth" he might well have been describing the grandeur of the American continent. Though at the core of Barnum's guileful proclamation was a hint that the artifice was fleeting.
"This grand show is eternal," wrote John Muir a few years before his death in 1914, yet Renaldi has cataloged the portents of a land continually vanishing into ephemera. A bakery window in Paris, Texas frames an oddly architectural cake, its whorls of icing intricately constructed. But the decorations seem incomplete: a totem left to grow stale in the darkened shop as the city lights come on. In one of the exhibition's most mournful images, a long-forgotten arcade console featuring the space shuttle Challenger leans gently into the dust.
Richard Renaldi was born in Chicago in 1968. He received his BFA in photography from New York University in 1990. Exhibitions of his photographs have been mounted in galleries and museums throughout the world, including Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, GA.; Robert Morat Galerie, Hamburg, Germany; The Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH; Pavillon Populaire, Montpellier, France; and Fotografins Hus, Stockholm, Sweden. In 2006 Renaldi's first monograph, Figure and Ground, was published by the Aperture Foundation. His second monograph, Fall River Boys, was released in 2009 by Charles Lane Press. Renaldi's most recent monograph Touching Strangers, is to be released by the Aperture Foundation in the spring of 2014. He currently lives and works in New York City.
Richard Renaldi was born in 1968 in Chicago, Illinois, and received his BFA in photography from New York University. Exhibitions of his photographs have been mounted in galleries and museums throughout the United States and Europe, including the House of Photography in Stockholm; The Robert Morat Gallery in Hamburg; and the Aperture Gallery; Bonni Benrubi Gallery; and Yossi Milo Gallery in New York. Renaldi’s work has also been exhibited in numerous group shows, including Strangers: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video (2003). In 2006 Renaldi’s first monograph, Figure and Ground, was published by Aperture. His second monograph, Fall River Boys, was released in 2009. Renaldi’s most recent monograph, Touching Strangers, was published by the Aperture Foundation in the spring of 2014.
Fall River Boys collects nine years of photographs taken in Fall River, Massachusetts into a nuanced portrait of a city where young men grow into manhood surrounded by a landscape of idyllic natural beauty, frayed at the margins by darkened relics of an industrial past.
Touching Strangers, according to the New York Times, “pushes the notion of street photography even further. Renaldi meets strangers on the street and asks them to touch or embrace one another; he then photographs these arrangements as group portraits. Rather than recording what he encounters in the city, Renaldi acts as a catalyst. He creates a moment that wouldn’t otherwise have existed, cajoling people to interact in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have…. What makes Renaldi’s photographs thrilling is that, even knowing his strategy, the viewer can’t help fabricating a story about the subjects’ relationship. We weave narratives around them—who they are, the unlikely tenderness that might exist between strangers. These counterfactuals force us to confront the limits of what we know, from our own experiences, to make up common social interactions.”