Posts Tagged ‘central valley’

Kristopher Stallworth – Periphery [of Bakersfield]

March 9, 2010

This weekend in Fresno I visited the Corridor 2122 gallery and saw the show Proof by photographer Kristopher Stallworth. I was intrigued and so checked out his website where I discovered his amazing series Periphery. Shooting at night and using his car’s headlights for illumination, Stallworth photographs the rough and ever changing urban edges of Bakersfield, CA, where he is based.

From the series Periphery by Kristopher Stallworth

From the series Periphery by Kristopher Stallworth

From the series Periphery by Kristopher Stallworth

I appreciate the effort involved in driving out to some ditch at the edge of town before dawn and waiting for that precise moment when the intensity of the dawn twilight matches that of his headlights. From Stallworth’s artistic statement:

The [headlights] transform these familiar places, details are revealed, while much of the area is obscured by darkness…. California’s Central Valley is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and the influx of people causes the edge of town to constantly shift, as new sub-divisions and industrial parks spring up.

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Foreclosure, USA by Kirk Crippens and the fractal nature of San Joaquin Valley towns

March 5, 2010

I was at RayKo in San Francisco this week renting a darkroom and came across the book Foreclosure, USA by Kirk Crippens.

Cover image of Foreclosure, USA by Kirk Crippens

End by Kirk Crippens, image courtesy of the artist

Duplex by Kirk Crippens, image courtesy of the artist

Green Pool by Kirk Crippens, image courtesy of the artist

The images are from Stockton, California, a town in the San Joaquin Valley due east of San Francisco. In the boom years it became a bedroom community for commuters priced out of the Bay Area. Construction boomed with population growth and cheap mortgages, coming to a sudden stop in 2008, leaving many areas unfinished.

The whole of the Central Valley boomed during these years and all the towns lining highway 99 contain subdivisions of similar vintages and in similar states, be it large cities like Sacramento and Fresno or small towns like Selma or Dinuba. There’s a fractal nature to the towns because large or small, they all contain the same urban and suburban features [empty downtowns, Chevron stations, Rabobanks,  Save-Marts, Wal-Marts, craftsman bungalows, post-war schools, dense new subdivisions, etc]. The flatness of the Valley allows the development model of the moment to reproduce itself in a grid-like fashion upon the land in a way that is invariant to scale.

Dinuba has two such unfinished subdivisions each undertaken by mega-home constructors at the peak of the market; Muirfield on the south side of town built by Wathen Castanos and on the west side, Las Casas at Viscaya built by K. Hovnian [HOV, you’ll see their stock is down 94% from its all-time high at the time of this writing, altho it’s up 5x from its crisis low of 85 cents]. The names of the subdivisions are wonderful, too, for capturing the contemporary tastes and aspirations of local home buyers. Though I try, I can’t resist poetic images of decay. Here’s a sampling of my own snapshots from Dinuba:

Muirfield development © Thomas Locke Hobbs

Las Casas at Viscaya at night © Thomas Locke Hobbs

Muirfield in the Tule Fog © Thomas Locke Hobbs

The images in Crippens’ work offer a of west coast, stucco-version of the Detroit-style ruin porn that’s all the rage these days. An exhibit of Crippens’ photographs is currently up at SFMOMA’s Artists Gallery space at Fort Mason in San Francisco until March 12th, 2010. You can also purchase the book on Blurb, altho, unfortunately, Blurb’s prices are outrageous.

The Great Central Valley

February 18, 2010

One of the most amazing photobooks I’ve ever owned is The Great Central Valley, a project by photographers Stephen Johnson and Robert Dawson, along with writer Gerald Haslam. The big, heavy book details the history and geography of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and is accompanied by immaculately printed, large format photographs.

Land Development, Lincoln © Stephen Johnson

A lot of the photos remind me of Richard Misrasch or Joel Sternfeld [early 1980s, large format, color, western landscapes modified by man, etc]. I don’t know why these guys and this book isn’t more well known. Buy it. You can get it used on Amazon for $7 which is a total steal.

Tule Fog

February 11, 2010

I’ve been waking up every day at dawn to go out and photograph. Especially exciting have been the days when the ground is shrouded in thick Tule Fog. Sometimes visibility gets down to a few feet. You feel like you’re in a zombie movie and everything just looks creepy and amazing.

The street outside my Aunt's house

Amputated orchard trees awaiting a graft

Italian Cypress on Palm Dr.

As my aunt said, at least somebody likes it.

Matthew Rangel; a transect – Due East

February 8, 2010

I had the great pleasure of meeting artist Matthew Rangel and seeing in person his stunning collection of prints entitled “a transect – Due East. The set of 12 lithographic prints documents his journey due east from Dinuba, his hometown, into the Sierra Foothills and to the summit of the highest peaks of the Great Western Divide.

Stronghold - Due East from Moro Rock, lithograph ©Matthew Rangel

The concept is a really simple one. Just a few miles east of Dinuba lie the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Usually this view is obscured by the horrible air quality but on those rare days when a winter storm clears out the air, the snowy peaks gleam in the near distance. Inspired by just such a sight, Rangel decided to simply walk east to reach those peaks. Reaching them turned out to be not so simple as it involved crossing a lot of private property. Securing the permission from the various landowners to traverse their lands required several years work.

The prints combine layers of drawings made on the journey, historical and government maps and photographs to create a work that is literally multi-layered and reflects upon this landscape and man’s ownership and modification of it. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of the cult of the fine print in the photography world. This work, however, seen in person, best exemplifies the obsessive attention to detail, materials, and meaning. The prints invite and reward close scrutiny and extended viewing.

If you are lucky enough to be in Fresno this month or in March you can see Rangel’s prints on view at the San Joaquin River Parkway & Conservation Trust’s River House. The exhibit opens February 11, 2010 with a reception from 5:30-7:30pm. Also coming up on February 20, 2010, Matthew Rangel is speaking at the Three Rivers Arts Center as part of the Sequoia Speaks series [more info]