Concord in Massachusetts, is the place of birth of Bill Armstrong (1952). The city is also the birthplace of American Transcendentalism and the first site of the Revolutionary War battle. Armstrong studied art history in Boston and graduated with honors (magna cum laude). In 1987, he completed his master's degree in Boston. He always wanted to be a writer, but he didn't wrote enough to fulfill that dream. Today, Bill Armstrong lives as a photo artist in New York and has been working with color photography for more than 30 years. His "Mandala" series was exhibited in 2008 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2010, he held a mid-career retrospective at the Southeastern Photography Museum in Daytona Beach. Armstrong's work is collected by many museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the French National Library. One of Armstrong's works was even selected as the cover of Lyle Rexer's Aperture book, The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography. His work has appeared in books such as William Ewing's "Faces: New Photographic Portraits" and Robert Hirsch's "Exploring Color Photography."
Origin of Photographs:
Armstrong created collages based on found or self-appropriated images. He then took more blurred photos of the collages. The camera's blur filter causes the edges of the collages to disappear, making the photos look like seamlessly integrated images. In this way, he is able to create a world in which the identities of those depicted and the location, remain unknown and mysterious. Some photos are long exposures and emphasize the particular falling movement. Others are calmer and capture a frozen moment.
Beginnings with photography:
In 1975, Armstrong bought his first camera for a trip to South America. Roger Farrington, his friend and photographer, introduced him to the medium and explained the basics to Armstrong. He liked his photographs from the trip and that's how he found his medium, photography.
Infinity series consists of image sequences of: "Partial Appearances", "Mandalas", "Apparition", "Buddha" and images from "Falling through History". The "Mandalas", for example, refer to Buddhist thought and to Plato's theory of forms. The "Renaissance" series focuses on Dante's hell and heaven. In his entire Infinity series, he takes up the history of East and West, alienates it from time and, in most cases, highly stylizes it with color. His latest addition to Infinity series is "Falling through History." Infinity takes as its theme time and the mystery that hides behind it. Initially, Armstrong, had the camera lens set to infinity, as well as the distance and maximum depth of field. Nevertheless, he photographed up close, which is why the images became blurry. This inversion subverts the documentary expectation one has of photography and allows it to enter this mysterious, ephemeral and unknown world. He named the Infinity series so because of the original camera angles and because they convey a sense of infinity. However, because the series uses a variety of cameras and lenses, the camera setting was not always used. In fact, it no longer exists with the newer lenses.
"Falling Through History"
The photo series "Falling Through History" shows, falling figures from the history of Western art, from ancient Greece to the present. These figures are again depicted in the transcendent style. He takes figures from art history and tries to portray them with the aspect of falling, as a still ongoing human consciousness, thus connecting the past with the present. His goal is to detach the characters from their historical background and connect them in a constant flow that transcends time. Many images allude to dark themes, such as the story of Icarus, the descent into hell, accidents or even suicides. Yet the characters do not always appear negatively, but artfully as acrobats, divers and dancers, making the aspect of falling an artistic motif. The characters look the same whether they are plunging to their supposed deaths or into a lake. Armstrong is interested in the viewer's reaction to this unfamiliar aspect and also in the one with in-depth uncertainty. Through the blurring of the figures, the images become part of a more universal territory about humanity and its relationship to time. The works want to remember the past but at the same time forget the past. To establish the relationship with the past, he takes figures from art history and tries to connect them in such a way that the fall reveals an aspect of human consciousness. Another aspect that "Falling through History" covers is a metaphor for the symbolic fall of the canon of art history. For the fixed patterns of art and artists are not so firmly established nowadays. The neglected or even overlooked artists of the past, are currently given more space. The positive momentum that art is getting just because of this, unfortunately, also follows a negative conclusion. The once revered artists are taken as a negative example for the art historical canon. Another metaphorical approach of "Falling through History" is the escape of an artist when they grow older and are no longer present. The fear of the fall of oblivion.
Brian Paul Clamp
247 West 29th Street, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10001
United States of America
Sophie Calitri, geboren am 22.06.2001 in Lüdenscheid
Kunstgeschichte, Literatur-, Kultur- und Medienwissenschaften