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SPIRIT
From the Infinity Series
Bill Armstrong

November 20, 2010 - February 6, 2011
Artist's Talk, Book Signing and Opening Reception: November 20, 5:00-7:00pm


Figure 02, 1999

“A world just beyond our grasp, where place may be suggested, but is never defined, and where the identity of the amorphous figures remains in question.  It is a world that might exist in memory, in dreams, or, perhaps, in a parallel universe yet unvisited.” —Bill Armstrong

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Bill Armstrong’s Infinity series transforms re-photographed and appropriated images to create ephemeral, abstracted and de-materialized color fields and strongly evocative iconic figures. Working with source material as diverse as African masks, Roman busts, statuary and other representations, Armstrong’s finished figurative and portrait images are powerfully suggestive of an unseen presence.

Spirit presents selections from five of the series that make up Bill Armstrong’s Infinity series. Working with his unique process of re-photographing appropriated images and subjecting them to a series of manipulations; Armstrong exploits the integrating capacities of camera blur to merge image details, edges and colors to create seamless color fields and mysterious, other-worldy figures. 

“The Mandala and Buddha images refer to Eastern spirituality. Mandalas are concentric circles of images that depict central themes in Buddhism, such as the Wheel of Life or the Map of the Cosmos. Through abstraction, blur and simplification, I explore these broad themes that remain open and invite the viewer's personal interpretation.

The Mandalas change as one gazes into them, pulsating as if alive, and inviting an inquiry into the idea of “being" within the inanimate. The Buddhas address mutability versus permanence; their soft luminosity suggests transcendence.


Mandala #453, 2003
 

Masks & Skulls refers to African masks and ideas about “evil spirits.”  I take concrete objects, with their powerful, symbolic associations of fear and death—what Andre Malraux called "the night side of man"—and subtly shift their meaning by transforming them. The resulting abstractions hold some of the residual dark power of the original object, but are softened, both literally and figuratively, into something illusory and weightless.

In the Apparitions series some of the images are dark, ghoulish visions, yet others are hopeful, spiritual presences. The powerful features of these Romans—emperor and soldier alike—bear witness to the eternal truths of the human condition and the precarious balance of hope and fear.

On another level, the work resonates for me personally. I made these images soon after my father died of cancer, yet it was only later that I understood that I had been trying to communicate with him through the medium of light-sensitive materials. This evidence of the power of subconscious motivation was a revelation to me, and the fact that some of the ghostly images actually resembled my father was uncanny. So Apparition is a personal quest to come to grips with the horror of death and the hope of redemption through image making.

The Figures represent the common household notion of ghosts and spirits. I refer here to the widely-held, late19th century belief that mediumistic photography would prove the existence of ghosts, and to the many hucksters who claimed to prove it with sham pictures. More seriously, I hope the ghosts and silhouettes can be seen as visions of the human soul.” —
Bill Armstrong


ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER

Bill Armstrong holds a B.A. in art history and an M.B.A. from Boston University. His work has recently been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Hackelbury Fine Art, London; ClampArt, New York; Dolby Chadwick, San Francisco; DeSantos Gallery, Houston; Scott White Contemporary Art, San Diego; Robischon Gallery, Denver; Gallery Kayafas, Boston; the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester Mass., and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Images from the Infinity series have been featured in major group exhibitions at commercial and public galleries in Europe and the US including the Center for Creative Photography, the Center for Fine Art Photography; Houston Center for Photography; the Victoria and Albert Museum; Aperture Foundation; Ambient Art Projects; the DeCordova Museum; the Photographic Resource Center; the International Center of Photography; Forma Centro Internazionale di Fotografia; Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam; Musee De l'Elysee, Lausanne; Recontres D’Arles, Arles and the Hayward Gallery, London.

Armstrong’s photographs have appeared in a number of major publications including The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography (2009); Photographic Possibilities (2007)Face: The New Photographic Portrait (2006); Exploring Color Photography (2004) as well as in the Boston Globe; New York Times; Utne Reader and the New Yorker. His work is in numerous public collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Addison Gallery of American Art; Bibliotheque Nationale de France; Musee De l’Elysee; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Southeast Museum of Photography; Museum of the City of New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Armstrong lives and works in New York where he is also an adjunct faculty at the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography.



Figure 01, 1999
Buddha 706, 2004 Apparition 913, 2005
 
Installation Images:


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