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Art Review: William Eggleston Exhibition, Victoria Miro Gallery. Words by Fiona Campbell.



A rubbish filled dumpster, bare tiled bathroom and pornographic posters; these are just a few of the everyday images that feature in Eggleston’s collection of new work 21st Century currently exhibiting at the Victoria Miro gallery. On first glance the photographs project a bleak picture of American Suburbia, yet Egglestons’s trade mark garish colours and penetrating shafts of light illuminate his mundane subjects, transforming them into objects of simple beauty.

Commonly referred to as “the godfather of colour photography” Eggleston uses his subjects as a vehicle to capture vivid and interesting pallets, rather than a pretext for hidden meaning. The nature of Eggleston’s pictures constructs a clear juxtaposition between his artistic and personal life. For a man who leads a notoriously lavish lifestyle, there is an obvious elimination of any glamour or affluence in his photographs. Yet, it is this lack of embellishment that breeds accessibility, offering a welcome slant on conventional beauty.

What is most unusual about William Eggleston’s approach is that each picture is only ever taken once. What is remarkable is that in a single shot he manages to capture each line, light, texture and angle to bold perfection. Close-up angles and shadowy corners invite unusual focal points. Untitled (Santa Claus on Window, Memphis) creates the surrealist illusion of a Santa Claus floating into a misty blue sky; it is actually a sticker on a car window through which the shot is taken. Untitled (Motel, Wildwood, New Jersey), encapsulates crisp contrasting blues with a glossy postcard finish; others such as Untitled (Clouds, Santa Barbra) have a hazier quality, reminiscent of a Monet painting rather than a photograph. Through the grainy composition in Untitled (Three Dresses in a Window, Greenwood, Mississipi) there is an inconspicuous self portrait; Eggleston’s dim reflection providing one of the few injections of human life within the exhibition. 21st Century is an absorbing suite of photographs, each picture aptly demonstrating how the most compelling images are caught a single, spontaneous moment.


Exhibition runs until Saturday, 27th February 2010

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