ART: William Christenberry "House and Car and"

Now thru 2/6 @ Pace MacGill midtown:

William Christenberry: House and Car and,” a selection of photographs, encaustic paintings, drawings, sculpture and found signs. The exhibition illuminates Christenberry’s multimedia approach to capturing the spirit of his

native South as reflected by the culture, natural landscape, and vernacular architecture of rural Alabama.

William Christenberry returns to his home in Hale County, Alabama annually. Like Walker Evans, his images of the region’s architectural sites and material culture provide a window into the rural South by offering prolonged studies of a place over time. For example, Christenberry’s sequence of 20 photographs, House and Car, near Akron, Alabama (1978-2005), chronicles the physical transformation of a

single building over the course of 27 years. A related sculpture gives three-dimensional form to the photographed building, however,it is not intended to be seen as a replica. Rather, the sculpture is a hybrid of both the actual image and Christenberry’s own memory of it. Christenberry elaborates: “[t]hey are not models. They are re-creations. Imaginative re-creations, like dreams.” The powerful combination of memory and imagination is particularly evident in Christenberry’s abstract drawings of gourd trees that reference the regional tradition of hanging hollow gourds to attract nesting birds and generate new life.

The iconography of the rural American South is intrinsic to Christenberry’s oeuvre. His found signs are literal records of place, while his images of egg crate crosses on graves and gourd trees allude to deeper cultural legacies. Perhaps the most potent symbol is an elongated, conical shape suggesting Ku Klux Klan members’ hoods. Christenberry translates this symbol into a more gestural, inverted “V” in a variety of his pieces, including the painted triptych, K House (1998).

William Christenberry was born in 1936 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

(text from exhibition press release – issued by Pace MacGill)

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