expects certain things from the art of people in their late
teens and early twenties: most of all enthusiasm, sometimes
emulation, sometimes the rejection of standards, and sometimes
the need to shock. These qualities intertwine with and feed
on inexperience and a degree of ignorance. Conversely, however,
the work of mature artists is just as often marred by too
much experience and knowledge: in making a living by doing
art, the living gets in the way of the art. What shows? What
sells? What is the easiest to produce? Facility in doing something
that comes from experience quashes curiosity to explore the
new. Slow and steady pays the bills and deadens enthusiasm.
Zimmermann and Everitt Clark embarked on a youthful project,
The Project (my coinage), a year ago. It grew out of Andrew’s
exploration of combining duplicate exposures. As a starting
point for The Project, they made a series of cut-papers: large
sheets of Kraft paper were drawn on with a knife blade. When
hung up, the paper edges — falling forward or behind
the plane of the paper —
what Frederick Sommer called light-sheds, where light moves from
shadow to highlight or highlight to shadow. While Sommer is famous
for his cut-paper photographs (the first made in 1962), Francis
Bruguière made cut-papers, light abstractions, in the 1920’s,
and many photographers explored the Cubist sense of distortion,
most prominently the Vorticists, among whom Alvin Langdon Coburn
is the best known.
a group of about thirteen cut papers, they selected six to be the
basis: the theme for a set of variations.
Project is a marvelous amalgam of those three precursors, Sommer,
Bruguière, and Coburn. The curvilinear strokes of the Zimmermann/Clark
cut papers fall stylistically between Sommer’s very graceful
line and the more angular, aggressive line of Bruguière.
Printing with multiple negatives of such similar subject matter
suggests the breaking up and repetition of subject elements explored
by Coburn in his Vorticist images. But from Sommer they took one
more thing, the love of the contact print. Sommer loved the effect
of the contact print: the sharpness, the sense of detail, the unadulterated,
rich middle-tones that were possible. The prints in The Project
are all 20 X 24, and the negatives are all 20 X 24: an ambitious
undertaking for any photographer. In their enthusiasm and practicality,
their solution was to convert a room into a camera, by mounting
a lens in the door, and placing the film on an easel, which could
be moved closer or farther away from the door/lens board, to bring
the image into focus. With the darkroom behind the door, they had
a remarkably elegant solution to an interesting problem: how to
make large-format negatives without investing tens of thousands
had the fortune of having Andrew and Everitt stay with me this last
summer, and while my wife and I were out one afternoon, they put
up the entirety of The Project, sitting the full sheets, 32 X 40,
of white mounting board on the floor around the room. Thirty 20
X 24 black and white prints, mounted identically, is a stunning
presentation. Each image was perfectly printed and dry mounted.
Nothing was “close,” everything was right. Often in
youthful work, presentation is not high on the priorities, but just
this alone was impressive.
images are a marvelous set of variations—Beethoven’s
Diabelli Variations come to mind. Like Beethoven, Andrew
and Everitt were, perhaps, overly ambitious. Instead of a few simple
images, they created a colossus. Certainly, any one of their images
can stand on its own, but taken as a whole the set is breathtaking.
The mature artist would never have untaken such a project—look
at the scale of each of the other contestant’s pieces who
entered a variation on Diabelli’s theme, from Lizt and Czerny,
to Schubert. What makes Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations
remarkable is also what makes Andrew and Everitt’s Project
remarkable: scale, the creative sense of variation on a somewhat
narrow theme, the depth and breadth of those variations, and their
dazzling execution. Perhaps, as Bach’s Goldberg Variations
also demonstrate, it is often a simple theme that best suits an
Andrew and Everitt wanted to explain which images were combined
and how, or to test us to see if we knew, this is not how I looked
at the images. I did not think that the original images should have
been shown with the variations, nor did I think it mattered if one
knew which themes were being stated and how. This was the only flaw
in the show, and, perhaps, it had more to do with our knowing them
than how they would have shown the work elsewhere.
unity of the pieces brought them together as a cohesive whole, but
the printing, some darker than others, the expressive use of controlled
bleaching, the variations in tone and color, differentiated the
pieces, allowed them to be seen as stunning individual images.
exhibitions gain because of an accumulative quality; other gain
because enough individual pieces are strong. Too often the overall
sense of an exhibition is lowered because weak pieces drag it down.
Certainly this group of twenty-four variations had stronger and
weaker pieces, although this was very much an idiosyncratic judgment.
But if we could have agreed on one or two images that were weak,
they did nothing to mar the overall sense of the group.
often talked about the need to know one’s antecedents, and
to be a thief greater than ones loot. On both counts, Andrew and
Everitt have honored their antecedents.
might ask if they would ever reprint these images, and if so how?
This is a pedagogic device, a way to get someone to look at their
work as if through different eyes. It would be an unfair question
to ask of them at the end of a year's work, but it is a delightful
hope for someone who liked The Project.
their enthusiasm, Andrew and Everitt drove the collection across
the country, stopping at galleries along the way and showing them
The Project. “Send slides, write letters, make a few calls,”
the mature artist says. “You’ll just be rejected.”
Andrew and Everitt were rejected, almost unanimously. They completed
a daunting project, and they had an adventure showing it across
the country. They have, I am sure, a few scars. But I hope that
they bring to their next project the same enthusiasm, craft, and
wit, and a fine disregard for wise and practical advice.
Andrew Zimmermann at email@example.com