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Industrial Parks Gallery Industrial Park #23


Park City Gallery Park City #43

The New Topography

The sky is blank and the sun comes up bright, harsh, and blinding. It's morning and it's airless, standard weather in Barrington Earle's photographs. No one grabs a robe reaching for the newspaper on the doorstep. No one takes the dog for a walk. Life is lived indoors, in the shadows. No one goes outside, into the emptiness.

Earle's barren landscapes are achingly beautiful, like the nineteenth century photographs that surveyed scarred battlegrounds after the dead were removed. Two centuries of a topography of the void: piles of dirt, mounds of rocks, blasts of dust, and random fires. American earth, it seems, has always had a story to tell. But for Earle, the plot has turned ironic; now it is construction that begets destruction.

So, he files eyewitness accounts of building starts and human achievement from the dead zone called success. Things get built, things get sold, things get better; that's how the narrative is supposed to play. But what Earle absorbs in daylight is darkness. He sees landscape turn into real estate, learns that speculative development turns viral. The garbage in his pictures rises off the ground as profits soar off a page in a bogus business plan.

In such a greedy, overwrought world, even the most basic of building materials takes on threatening, mannerist overtones. Sheetrock is bandaged with wall compound. Tentacles of electrical wires flail, ripped from the safety of aluminum conduit. Blank, stucco walls catch light and dirt and would shred your flesh if you were thrown up against them. Every single, cheaply made edifice sits on the game board of nature, as seductive, and perverse, as bonsai.

Clearly, Earle is attracted to twisted constructs. He's a minimalist burdened with romantic world weariness. In the land of opportunity, curiosity steers him straight toward the epicenters of failure. In fact, Earle does all he can to make his pictures unlikable. Prints are tiny, colorless and maddeningly elegant, too smart, and too repulsive, to hang over a couch. His ambition drives him, like a physicist longing to decode chaos. He's made complex, remarkable, angry pictures. And any one of them could detonate like a manic depressive; the picture that looks great in your hand might just blow up somewhere inside your head.