Essays by Elizabeth Broun, Howard N. Fox, Andy Grundberg and Walter Hopps.
Since the early 1960s, William Christenberry has plumbed the regional identity of the American South through his work in Hale County, Alabama, where he was raised. Although he is most often associated with--and recognized as a pioneer in--American color photography, he also works in an unorthodox mix of media that includes sculpture, drawing, painting and found-object assemblage. This comprehensive survey of his work considers all those practices together, and in doing so gives readers access to the full scope and complexity of his vision. In every medium, Christenberry's theme is unified: the history, the story of place, is at the heart of his project. His poetic documentation of vernacular architecture, signage and landscape captures moments of quiet beauty in a sometimes mythic terrain that, with its worn iconography and buildings turned ramshackle, evokes the form and power of the passage of time. Since relocating to Washington, D.C., in 1968, Christenberry has dutifully returned to photograph the same locations annually--the green barn, the palmist building, the Bar-B-Q Inn--fulfilling a personal ritual and documenting the physical changes wrought by the passing of a year. More than half the photographs in this comprehensive survey are previously unpublished, including new and vintage images and a stunning selection of never-before-seen Kodachrome work. An essay by Walter Hopps, the artist's lifelong friend and the founding director of the Menil Collection, who passed away in 2005, will draw attention as well.