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THE BUZZ: Picture Windows – John Pfahl


Picture Windows – John Pfahl

Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, CA

Article by Cathy Breslaw

John Pfahl’s Picture Windows is a series of over twenty-five 16” x 20” vintage Ectacolor prints which were made between 1979 and 1981. All photographs were shot within a darkened room through a picture window, from homes, hotels, and businesses all over the west and east coast of the United States.

In the image entitled ‘Two Balanced Rock Drive, Springdale Utah”, Pfahl leaves behind a Polaroid print in the foreground, giving us an important clue to his process – nothing is left to chance, as Pfahl meticulously sets up his shots with careful attention to time of day, season and place. He ‘frames’ his images as a painter would in composing a still life or landscape prior to painting it. Since the early Renaissance, painters have transformed the picture plane into open windows for symbolic, emotional or compositional purposes. In Pfahl’s case, he has brought the ‘indoors’ and ‘outdoors’ together into one plane by his method of image-making. The overall shape of the glass windows, and size of the verticals and horizontals of the window panes are integrated into the outdoor landscapes – seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly accomplishing Pfahl’s vision. Though there is a certain drama to the purposefully set darkness of the interior, framing the well lit exterior city or mountain landscape, the content of these images appear cool and detached. Pfahl’s consistently sharp images draws our attention to landscapes we may have seen, but not quite in the same way.

(Image: 814 South Spring Street  (East View), Los Angeles  16” x 20”  vintage Ektacolor print, 1981)

Vanguard Culture

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