Joe Deal, 1947-2010

Sad news today that photographer Joe Deal lost his courageous battle with cancer.  His family shared that he was editing new work in his last days in hospice care, excited as always about his lastest creative explorations.

I shot installation views yesterday at the Center for Creative Photography, where his exhibition “WEST AND WEST” is on view at CCP, where his archive will be housed, and I will add them to this blog post shortly.  Dr. Kate Palmer Albers spoke eloquently about Joe’s work in her gallery talk last night.

It has been wonderful to observe so many younger photographers come to know Joe’s work through the major traveling exhibition of “NEW TOPOGRAPHICS: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” organized by the CCP and George Eastman House, and was on view at both of those institutions as well as LACMA.  You can hear Joe as well as the other photographers in the exhibition speaking about the work on an audio clip on this link on LACMA‘s website.

The Center for American Places’ publication of the same name is not to be missed.

From the publisher’s description:

“The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 officially opened the Great Plains to westward settlement, and the public survey of 1855 by Charles A. Manners and Joseph Ledlie along the Sixth Principal Meridian established the grid by which the uncharted expanse of the Great Plains was brought into scale. The mechanical act performed by land surveyors is believed by photographer Joe Deal to be powerfully similar to the artistic act of making a photograph.To Deal, both acts are about establishing a frame around a vast scene that suggests no definite boundaries of its own. Thus, when approaching his own photographs of the Great Plains, Deal viewed his photography as a form of reenactment, a method of understanding how it felt to contain the Great Plains in smaller, more measurable units.

In West and West, Deal, who was born and raised in Kansas, revisited the Kansas-Nebraska territory and applied his photographic understanding of the landscape grid and horizon line to illuminate the sense of infinite space that transcends the reality of the survey. As Deal writes in his concluding essay: “If the square, as employed in the surveys of public lands, could function like a telescope, framing smaller and smaller sections of the plains down to a transect, it can also be used as a window, equilaterally divided by the horizon, that begins with a finite section of the earth and sky and restores them in the imagination to the vastness that now exists as an idea: the landscape that is contained within the perfect symmetry of the square implies infinity.”

The stunning photographs in ‘West and West’ present the Great Plains from a rare perspective. From this vantage point, Deal is able to distill and contemplate its expanse. “

Robert Mann, Joe’s long-time friend and dealer, hosted an exhibition of the WEST AND WEST work this past March, view the press release here.  Click here to read the press release for JOE DEAL: THE FAULT ZONE exhibition from 2004, and here to view the press release for JOE DEAL: NEW TOPOGRAPHICS exhibition in 2006.  Click here to view images of Joe’s on the Robert Mann Gallery website.

Another of Joe’s monumental projects: an extended documentation of the building the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

From the Getty Bookstore entry for the 1999 summary publication, Between Nature and Culture:

“From 1983 through 1997, artist Joe Deal documented the site and construction of the Getty Center, designed by architect Richard Meier, through a series of black-and-white photographs. Between Nature and Culture presents 122 of Deal’s photographs, offering an opportunity to view the evolving site through this artist’s eyes, from the selection of the starkly beautiful chaparral-covered mountain top to the steel and travertine of the final stages of construction.

Joe Deal’s photographs have appeared in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe. A major exhibition of his work was held in Spring 1992 at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; it was accompanied by a book, Joe Deal: Southern California Photographs 1976-86. His photographs are in major collections throughout the United States, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Deal is Provost of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Mark Johnstone’s essay provides both a key to understanding Joe Deal’s unique vision and commentaries on the thematic groups and individual photographs reproduced. He was formerly the public art administrator for the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles and he continues to consult in public art affairs for both cities and states across the West.”

I was so fortunate to study with Joe’s best friend and colleague, James Hajicek.  They went attended the Kansas City Art Institute together, then went on to University of New Mexico together as well.  They both landed teaching jobs in the west, Joe at the University of California at Riverside, and James at Arizona State.   Joe would visit often, and we were all the wiser for it.

My thoughts are with Joe’s family and large extended family of friends and colleagues, all of whom will miss him dearly.

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1 Comment »

  1. [...] wrote a wonderful tribute to Joe and his career here. The St. Louis Beacon, the New York Times, and Mary Virginia Swanson have also honored Joe [...]

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