You can feel the heart beat, the heat of the feet on the pavement, running paws with clutching jaws trying to find something to eat, something to sink long shorn horns and tusks into in a land of concrete. Vapid wastelands surround the giant beasts, nay, the quiet hearts lancing out of the ground to their towering heights revealing the contemporary reality they face. The sanctuary of their original provision, the natural habitat given them through the merciful breath of creation, continues to be encroached upon, little by little, a lot by a lot. Quarries, urban sprawl, industrialization, vast garbage dumps that collect the unwanted remainder of consumption based economies, barren lands have come to replace what was once luscious ground on which to roam free. To roam free.. What we were all created to be...
*Wasteland With Cheetah & Children (2015) Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Nick Brandt knows this freedom well from his time accrued in East Africa shooting boundless landscapes and animal portraits devoted to showing the deep majesty and beauty of nature's endless perfection. A British born photographer, Brandt has opted to rescind on the colonial aspect of his roots and give causeway to healing through his Art. To display the strength and power of the cradle of life has been the focus of his photographic work. But as time has donned on and he has seen the inherent ripple of colonialism turn to industrialization, Nick decided to create a visual juxtaposition that speaks to the future that is right around the corner, if not already glaringly present.
Using life-size prints of his earlier work, Mr. Brandt has chosen meticulously urban backgrounds in which to place the regal bearings of his subjects for his latest exhibition, Inherit The Dust. As his first exhibition with the Edwynn Houk Gallery, Brandt created 26 haunting images that arrest the senses with panoramic precision, capturing the capacious thought he is moving to convey. With masterful composition, the viewer must look twice at first to see if the animals have simply been photoshopped into the backgrounds, but will find at once that the edges are too smooth. The photo is too seamlessly integrated, and the essence felt in the shot is completely cohesive. No, no Photoshop here. Hard work, manual labor and elevated mind went into this work to enable each photograph to tell its epic.
The long, powerful and graceful neck of the giraffe soars up from a body laying down looking off into the distance. Perhaps it ponders the disappearing presence of spirit at the hands of those that encroach its planes as the cranes of the quarry yard gaze their own way off in the same direction.
*Quarry With Giraffe (2014) Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
The lion too, looks out at the industry of human expansion, exploitation at almost every level, and wonders where his pride will hide to escape the gluttonous clutches of man?
*Quarry With Lion (2014) Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Desolate, alone in the leftovers of yesterday's promise keep, huddled masses of infinite sorrow hang last and low on the budget list. Over-rotten garbage heaps line the valley walls of a shallow creek corrupting beauty of long forgotten use, it idles haplessly down the empty corridor of dreams whispering wishes of undermining thematic schemes.
*Alleyway With Chimpanzee (2014) Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Subjecting the imposing size of life in each animal to the scale of human interference makes for a startling recognition. The viewer's perspective is multiplied and all of the fragments of cause and effect come surging into mind. This Multiple Perspective Fragmentation comes with the expanse or limit of the viewer's frame of thought and that is where Brandt's work is very democratic. He makes very clear his message about the impact human industry is having on the natural wildlife of East Africa, and he does so in a breathtaking way.
*Road To Factory With Zebra (2014) Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
He gives vast, dramatic landscapes to compose an image of a near apocalyptic pied a terre in which these animals have been subjected to and in so doing, composing the intransigence of industry whose tentacles reach far and wide in their relentless quest for growth and profit.
*Underpass With Elephants (Lean Back, Your Life Is On Track) (2015) Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Nick Brandt has managed to reveal beautifully an ugly cultural colloquialism that privileged citizens of the world prefer not to acknowledge let alone have to visualize. The torturous and barren reality that many in the world - most, even - are indentured to is a secret to hiding eyes, but Nick Brandt and the Edwynn Houk Gallery are eyes wide open, wild, and ready to roam in the freedom of art at its best: a spirited message of truth, making seen that which is unseen.