November 19, 2016 - January 14, 2017
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, Frank Gohlke: Texas Memories. Throughout his nearly five-decade career, Frank Gohlke has continued to visit and photograph his native North Texas, particularly his hometown of Wichita Falls. It was there that he made some of his earliest photographs as a teenage member of the local camera club. Returning as a mature photographer, Gohlke developed the approach that has come to define his career: investigating how the natural landscape determines patterns of human activity, settlement, and use through long engagement with his chosen sites. Gohlke has said, “I have always felt that it’s a part of my responsibility to what I photograph to know as much about it as possible.” And elsewhere: “a landscape whose story is known is harder to dismiss.” It is fitting, then, that the place Gohlke knows best—his home—has sustained his longest-running photographic inquiry.
The places in North Texas that Gohlke has gravitated towards hold deep personal significance for him. His boyhood home and neighborhood are the subjects of a selection of early photographs, many of which are being shown for the first time in this exhibition. Also on view are pictures of the Red River and the Wichita River; both occasional bringers of water to the parched region, but running low and slow much of the time. As a boy, Gohlke believed the riverbeds were plagued with quicksand and venomous creatures; it was only when he returned with a camera that he began to appreciate the peculiar beauty of the mud-choked rivers winding through the North Texas prairie. And there is the cattle ranch that was home to Gohlke’s aunt and uncle and two generations before them. Known in the family simply as The Ranch, the place held mystical sway over Gohlke’s imagination as a child. He has photographed the property over the years, even after it was sold out of the family and a half-mad tenant burned the main house to the ground trying to clear a nest of rattlesnakes from the basement. The exhibition charts Gohlke’s evolution as a photographer against The Ranch’s dissolution in pictures of the site made over a fifty-year period.
Gohlke’s connection to the Wichita Falls area is more than memory; when he returns, it is to visit a community of family and friends who know the celebrated photographer affectionately as “Frank Famous.” Gohlke made the most recent photographs in Texas Memories during a 2016 a trip to his hometown for an event at the Wichita Falls Art Museum, which shows his “Aftermath” portfolio annually. His continuing impulse to photograph his hometown is a product of both its place in his past and his present integration into the community. For Gohlke, human relationships, history, and the land are impossible to disentangle in his native North Texas. His complex, sustained connection with the place has yielded a remarkable body of photographs that are as intimate as they are incisive.
Frank Gohlke has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX; the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ; and the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. He is the recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Fulbright fellowship. His publications include Measure of Emptiness: Grain Elevators in the American Landscape (The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 1992); Mount St. Helens (The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 2004); Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke (Center for American Places, 2007); and Landscape as Longing, forthcoming from Steidl Verlag in spring of 2017. Gohlke has taught at Massachusetts College of Art; The Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO; the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Harvard University; Princeton University; and Yale University. Gohlke is currently a Regents Professor of Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ, where he lives and works.