Jack Spencer

This Land, An American Portrait

23 May – 1 July 2017
OPENING: Friday 26 May, 6-8pm
TALK: Saturday 27 May, 11am

This spring David Lusk Gallery presents Jack Spencer’s new photographs, This Land, An American Portrait. The exhibition of nearly twenty works spans thirteen years of imagery and the entire nation as source material. A new large-format book, This Land, published by the University of Texas Press, accompanies the exhibition.

Spencer began the series in 2003, as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. During the thirteen ensuing years Spencer traveled by car to forty-eight states to capture an immense portrait of what it means to live in America today.

Initially his vision was motivated by anger towards America and the decision to go to war. His emotions manifested themselves in the darkroom where he distressed the photographs — tearing edges, gouging surfaces, and splattering the prints with various substances. Spencer remembers, “That body of work progressed for another seven years, during which time I eventually began to see the beauty of America, and my approach softened. I suppose the work explores the idea that the country has myriad facets. It is ugly and beautiful and all possible description in between all at once. So it started as an indictment and ended as homage. Eventually, the work evolved into an appreciation of this land of ours.” Likewise over the years his methods of distressing the photographs shifted, and he began glazing with pigments and toning the print surfaces, to create a more reflective image.

The subject of This Land, An American Portrait spans the country, capturing everything from Key West to Death Valley, from Southern California to New England. Spencer’s extensive perspective varies in palette as well as subject, ranging from monochromatic blacks and whites of early American photographers, to lush over saturated hues, suggestive of American painters like Edward Hopper and Grant Wood.

In the book’s introduction, Jon Meacham states, “Spencer’s most surprising images are of a country that I suspect many of us believed had disappeared. The fading churches, the roaming bison, the running horses: Spencer has found a mythical world, except it is real, and it is now, and it is ours.”

Much like what happened through the course of making This Land, An American Portrait, Spencer relies on his process and time to dictate the ultimate resolution of a series. He says, “I always ask of the image what it wants and where it wants to go. All the tools I have ever used were to that end, whether digital or darkroom. It is a digging around in the minutiae with a puzzle that needs resolution. It gradually reveals itself. I am sometimes a ‘mad scientist’ in that I like to experiment and try things that I am not sure will work. Again, curiosity plays a big part.”

Jack Spencer is a widely known photographer who calls Nashville, TN, home. In 2005 he was awarded the prestigious Lucie Award for International Photographer of the Year in the nature category. His work is in major collections including the Berkley Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Brookings Institute, the Tennessee State Museum, the Mississippi Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In 2013 The Frist Museum in Nashville presented an extensive mid-career retrospective of his work.

David Lusk Gallery is located at 97 Tillman. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday 10-5:30 and Saturday 11-4. For more information or visuals please contact Amelia Briggs at 901 767 3800 or amelia@davidluskgallery.com.

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