Early Works, 1975 – 1981
March 12 - May, 2005
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce its current exhibition – Catherine Wagner: Early Works, 1975–1981. Documenting the constructed landscapes of the late 1970s in the areas in and around San Francisco and Oakland, Catherine Wagner’s early work reveals an urban landscape in flux. Rarely exhibited, these early works provide a critical understanding of the captivating works Wagner would create throughout her career. From the earliest images capturing the foundations of highways and other structures, to the infrastructure of San Francisco’s George Moscone Center, these early works can today be viewed as Wagner’s primary investigations into the fundamental constructions of contemporary culture.
Catherine Wagner’s prolific career has brought her to photograph everything from the empty classrooms of America’s public schools to the ethereal, other-worldly places of microbiology. Each unique body of work Wagner creates allows the viewer to enter into the foundations of our culture with a particular lens, and therefore a distinct perspective. Emerging in the mid-1970s with an interest in the New Topographics and photographers such as Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams or Joe Deal, Catherine Wagner’s career begins with an elegant body of work entitled “California Landscapes.” With her eye on construction sites of both homes and highways, these images depict a landscape where nature is overlooked and built environments are the primary endeavor.
Unlike her counterparts previously mentioned, Wagner is one of the few female photographers to have a focused on the suburban landscape during this vital period in contemporary photography. The only comparable female photographer who emerges during this period is Candida Hofer. Yet unlike the still and anxious architectural interiors of Hofer, Wagner’s early work exhibits a sense of conceptual rigor that harnesses the integrity of the structure she captures as much as the effect of its presence in the landscape. Nowhere is this more apparent then in Wagner’s first significantly recognized body of work, “George Moscone Site” created in 1980-81. In this series, which documents the construction of San Francisco’s George Moscone Center, Wagner’s use of scale and perspective allows the viewer a vision into the unseen structures behind this convention hall. Then, equally as important, Wagner opens up the periphery, allowing us to view the undefined, non-place where this construction lies, between the derelict and the downtown.
With her calm eye and clean aesthetic, Catherine Wagner’s early work is a view into the hidden structures of our built cultural environment and, in these rare works, we the foundations of this increasingly important artist’s career. Always allowing a clear sense of place to reside in her images and in the viewer’s mind, Catherine Wagner’s photography gives us the ability to locate ourselves in reference to our constructed culture as if visually tearing down structures so we can see the skeletal essences of our manufactured society.