Friday, April 3, 2009

Landscape by Christopher Russell



While out in LA several months back I discovered a small slipcased book by an artist named Christopher Russell called Landscape.

Landscape explores the public and private spaces where gay men meet for what appear to be random sexual trysts. Russell surreptitiously (by his own account) photographed those environments and meetings taking place under the semi-private cover of trees and brush in a park in San Francisco.

Russell's photographs, shot with a camera hidden in his jacket pocket are rough descriptions - sketches really. The plastic lens camera and black and white film describe less fine detail than grand gesture. Most of the natural surroundings are reduced to silhouette and the figures, often mere shapes that link up into pairings, suggest more than show. All seems to be happening through a veil of haze that also seems to be describing the passage of time.

An interesting comparison could be made to Kohei Yoshiyuki’s Document Kouen (Document Park). Both photographers are making images of public sex surreptitiously but where as Yoshiyuki's deal in specifics, Russell's are impressions. Where Yoshiyuki is an observer, Russell places the viewer into the role of both observer and participant.

Landscape is a small artist book that is cover to cover with photographs bled to the page edges. The paper is matte finish and leaves the tonalities swamped in muted grays. This murky tonal effect is a good companion for the images with their reduced range and emotional intensity. A small letterpress made folio with the book's title, acknowledgments, and colophon page is laid in - its elegance sits in funny contrast to the almost animalistic urgency of the images.

Landscape was published by Kolapsomal Press in 2007.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

oh brother...

Anonymous said...

I just saw a copy at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where Russell has a show up. An amazingly beautiful little book. Glad the Hammer Bookstore had a couple of copies left . . . wonder where else it's available. Any ideas?

Mr Whiskets said...

For more on Christopher Russell...

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/04/review-christopher-russell-at-hammer-museum.html

He also used to do an art zine called Bedwetter.

Mr Whiskets said...

I've only seen one listing on ABE. The press that published the book has no distribution and is a bit of a mystery.

In the book, Christopher thanks Jim Goldberg, Larry Sultan, Sally Mann, Todd Hido and others so they may have been his teachers or advisors at art school.

The book is limited to 500 copies, 30 of which come in a clamshell box with a print. Maybe contact him through his website:

http://www.russellarchive.com/

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon this book at Arcana Books in Santa Monica about a year ago. The photographs are deeply disturbing in a beautiful way, and the production is amazing. I don't know if they still have copies.

W. said...

I think they still do. Design Observer (a really good site) reviewed it and called it "Perhaps the most beautiful — and definitely the dirtiest — book of 2007." DO had a link to Arcana, which is where I got a copy.