Ira Wagner, Elizabeth, from the Garden State series, 2015, archival inkjet print, 30 x 40 inches, courtesy of the artist
In this photographic series titled Garden State, the artist Ira Wagner explores the industrial landscape of New Jersey. Documenting different areas familiar to many commuters passing through the Garden-State, these isolated places become remote from both their consciousness and body. In these photographs, Wagner captures factories, warehouses, abandon sites, public facilities, roads and bridges, seeking representations of development, decline and renewal. His photographs possess a spectral, unexpected beauty of industrial zones and desolate scenes, emphasizing the man-made altered landscape, where steel, smoke, and monumental structures dominate the composition, yet absent of humans. The light conditions appear soft and hazy, conjuring a sense of mystery and melancholy that is nevertheless romantic. In these carefully composed photographs, familiar objects and sceneries take on their own shape, evoking a surreal impression, such as the work Goethals Bridge, recalling De Chirico’s metaphysical landscapes and eerie cityscapes. Wagner’s photographic recording of the Garden-State follow the tradition of German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typology of industrial archeology, and can also be seen as an extension to American artist Robert Smithson’s 1967 The Monuments of Passaic, where crumbling structures and machineries he photographed around New Jersey, were regarded and treated as art installations. Each of Wagner’s images are carefully produced, with great attention given to angles and lighting, underscoring both their documentary and fictional qualities.
This exhibition is made possible by Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s Seed Grants. The purpose of the Seed Grant Galleries is integration: of spaces, of voices, and of intellectual/aesthetic disciplines. Each of the five year-long pop-up exhibitions will appear in a non-art space in order to enhance Rutgers’ academic environment by expanding on the ways in which knowledge can be acquired outside the classroom. Seed Grant Galleries will be established through the collaborative efforts of those within and without the University context, will highlight the relevance of visual literacy in understanding our intellectual landscape, and will provide platforms for voices that historically may have been excluded from the History of Art or recognized academic pursuit.