Eyestorm, London, United Kingdom

Bourbon St., New Orleans by Mark Steinmetz

Mark Steinmetz Biography

Steinmetz' monochrome portraits are striking both for their understatement and for the way in which they imbue offhand moments with significance. Bourbon Street, New Orleans (1995), an image of a young man with tousled blond hair, unbuttoned white shirt and knitted tie, smoking a cigarette with affected cool in front of a clapboard house, has a timeless quality. Easefully positioning this figure against the building's structure of beat-up wooden horizontals and verticals, Steinmetz manages to simultaneously echo Walker Evans' Depression- era images and create a portrait of an individual who, knowingly affecting such a pose, is evidently filtering historical notions of hipster cool. Given the famous location and his studiously rumpled appearance - the loose tie hanging like a saxophone strap - this teenager is learning his style from dissolute jazz musicians of the past. He radiates the nonchalance of youth, a consistent subtext of Steinmetz' work, which almost makes visible the protective bubble of self-confidence that many adolescents operate within.

The photo series that made his name came about in 1996 when Steinmetz, a defiantly local photographer, decided to document the occupants of Jittery Joe's, a coffee shop in his hometown of Athens, Georgia. In Jittery Joe's, Athens, GA, a young girl sits perfectly poised at a table. Gazing calmly into the lens, she seems sure of herself and her placement in the world - a counterpoint to the gentle bustle of life in the room around her. Again, there is a time-standing-still quality to this work; Steinmetz is here a chronicler of youth, but not of fads. His subject is the fleeting quality that adheres only to youthfulness, and which is lost through knowledge of the world.

The girl laying back on a car bonnet in a parking lot in Athens, GA, meanwhile, seems to be staring into the future while inhabiting a timeless present. She wears a 50s-style print dress and has a carbonated drink and cigarettes beside her. She could have been photographed at any time in the last half-century; in this image, the frozen time of adolescence mingles with the apparent stillness of life outside the major cities of the US. Though Athens, a college town, is hardly a backwater, here we see fashions percolating with infinite slowness and a girl who appears. what? Dissatisfied and waiting for her life to begin? Perhaps, but it barely matters; her thoughts are blended into a broader, more recognizable narrative through Steinmetz' filmic sensibility.

Steinmetz' specialty is the hung narrative - where are these people going? What are they thinking? This is made especially apparent in his images taken by highways. What is the squinting, baggy-eyed but handsome youth doing on the Interstate in Off I-40, Knoxville? He's wearing a dressy, countrified jacket and pencil tie, and looks completely out of place. Similarly the bespectacled boy blowing bubble-gum, who sits beside the road in Off Highway 441, North of Clayton, GA; the road becomes a metaphor for a life journey, destination unknown. These are the looks of youths the world over. Is it something universal, a product of adolescence itself? Or something learned from movies, magazines and musicians? These images won't provide the answers; rather Steinmetz revels in images that stand at the very cusp of a question.

All images courtesy Blind Spot magazine.

Selected Awards

Georgia Council for the Arts Grant, 1995

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1994

Tennessee Overhill Experience Documentary Commission, 1993

Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award, 1988-89

Light Work Residency, Syracuse, New York, 1988

Camargo Foundation Residency Fellowship, Cassis, France, 1987

Columbia University, (visiting artist), New York

Cooper Union, (visiting artist), New York

East Tennessee State University, (visiting artist), Johnson City, Tennessee, USA

Georgia State University, (visiting artist), Atlanta, USA

School of Visual Arts, (visiting artist), New York

University of Akron, (visiting artist), Akron, Ohio, USA

SELECTED PERMANENT COLLECTIONS

The Art Institute of Chicago, USA

Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, USA

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA

Museum of Modern Art, New York

New Orleans Museum of Art, USA

PaineWebber, New York

Reader's Digest, Pleasantville, New Jersey, USA

Shornhill Holding, Montreal, USA

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 'Nightfall', Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, 1999

Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, 1997

Bassetti Gallery, New Orleans, USA, 1996

The Tennessee Overhill, L & N Depot, Etowah, Tennessee, USA, 1996

Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA, 1995

Evanston Arts Center, Evanston, Illinois, USA, 1993

University of Akron School of Art, Akron, Ohio, USA, 1991

'Little League Baseball', Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, USA, 1989

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

'Open Ends', Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2000 'Nature', Lyndon House, Athens,

Georgia, USA, 2000

'Visualizing the Blues', Dixon Gallery, Memphis, USA, 2000

'Century of Paris', Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, USA, 1999

'Female', Wessel and O'Connor Gallery, New York, 1999

'Humidity', Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, USA, 1999

'Some Southern Stories', Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, USA, 1999

'Recent Acquisitions', The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA, 1998

'Contemporary Photography from the Collection', Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998

'New Narratives', Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, 1997

'Coming of Age', White Columns, New York, 1997

'To See a World', Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia, USA, 1997 (Traveling to Germany

and Poland)

'Multiple Identities', Nexus, Atlanta, USA, 1997

'The South by its Photographers', Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, USA, 1996

'delirium', Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York, 1996

'Magic of Play', Grand Central Terminal, New York, 1995

'New Photography Nine', Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1993-4

'Permanent Collection Exhibition', Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1993

'This Sporting Life', High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA, 1993

'Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort', Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1991

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