Ulterior Gallery is excited to open its fourth season with Panorama, an exhibition of photographs by New York-based artist Carrie Yamaoka, opening Sunday, September 15, with a reception for the artist from 6–8 pm. This exhibition will be on view until Sunday, October 20.
There are celebrated sites such as Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls—landscapes depicted countless times in photographs, painting, and film, forming a part of the myth of this country’s nature and character. And there are other landscapes, mostly hidden from our view. Sing Sing is a maximum security prison up the Hudson River from New York City, its name derived from the Sintsink people from whom the land was taken in 1685 in exchange for money. Guantanamo Bay, now used for indefinite detention of accused terrorists and enemy combatants, was used in the early 1990s to detain Haitian immigrants and also as a quarantine site for HIV+ Haitians. Heart Mountain in Wyoming was a WWII Japanese-American concentration camp from 1942 to 1945 and is now a National Historic Landmark. Tornillo, a town in Texas at the border (the word means “screw” in Spanish), housed a temporary tent city, built in 24 hours, where thousands of immigrant children separated from their parents were detained last year. These are some of the distinctly American sites that form the core of Yamaoka’s photographic cycle Archipelagoes (2019).
Yamaoka originally created Archipelagoes in 1991–94 as a set of unique, chemically altered gelatin silver prints. Without a camera, working with light and photographic chemicals in an analogue darkroom, Yamaoka made eighteen photograms representing an incomplete abecedarium of the names of sequester locations—prisons, hospitals, concentration camps— functioning as both word and image. The images follow in alphabetical order, but eight letters are missing. The series has now been supplemented with five new photograms of contemporary sites that speak to our political present. This group of gelatin silver prints is currently on view in the artist’s first solo museum exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle.
On view at Panorama will be an archival pigment print cycle sourced from the original gelatin silver prints that comprised the earlier iteration of Archipelagoes. This new work was shot over the course of 10 years and printed digitally this year. As media has transitioned from analogue to digital in the years since the original work was conceived, many of the places cited in Yamaoka’s work have also transitioned from one use or function to another. The shift from the original analogue Archipelagoes to the digital edition mirrors this migration of sites. It is one generation removed, both in time and in relation to the physical source material. It is a re-iteration of the original idea, made in a different moment. Revealing the verso behind the recto and making visible the barely seen have long been characteristic of Yamaoka’s practice. Questions around naming and picturing, and the relationship of exposure to transformation, also lie at the core of her practice. While the photograms of the original set have deteriorated over time from being exposed to light and air, the new cycle of prints are more vivid and fresh. As the US government moves material from one deployment or detention camp, repurposes it, and later places it in another site, here the formal and material repetitions and shifts echo the morphing nature of the seen and unseen carceral American landscape.
The artist will donate 10% of sales of Archipelagoes to the ACLU.
Carrie Yamaoka (b.1957 Glen Cove, NY) has exhibited her work widely in the US and Europe since the 1980s. Yamaoka’s work is currently the subject of her first solo museum exhibition recto/verso at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. It is also featured in arms ache avid aeon: Nancy Brooks Brody / Joy Episalla / Zoe Leonard / Carrie Yamaoka: fierce pussy amplified which opens the fall season at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia on September 13. Yamaoka is the recipient of a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2017 Anonymous Was a Woman Award. She is a founding member of the queer art collective fierce pussy.