Dimensions: 26 1⁄2 x 33 1⁄4 in. (67.3 x 84.4 cm) each
Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York
A pioneer of color photography at the time of its debut in the world of art in the 1970s, Joel Sternfeld is known for his in-depth meditations on uniquely American sites and stories. Sternfeld’s Sweet Earth is a series of photographs and accompanying texts that chronicle experimental utopias in the United States, in regions as diverse as California’s Mojave Desert, a roof garden in downtown Chicago, and the hills of Western Massachusetts, and from early American transcendentalist movements to more recent back-to-land endeavors.
Whether Sternfeld is examining a religious sect, a government assistance program, or an ecologically minded commune for nature-lovers, the tension between success and failure is a dominant theme across the series, as are the competing ideologies of individualism and collectivism. Possible responses to these tensions align with the many moods of Sternfeld’s photographs: irony, ecstasy, sadness, loneliness, controversy, and frequent abandon. Even so, there are shining moments when pragmatism prevails, and some good can be gleaned from these experiments. Even those communities that are now long gone (Black Mountain College in North Carolina, for instance, is now a Christian boys’ camp) can, thanks to Sternfeld’s keen eye, leave a lasting and irrevocable trace on our collective unconscious.
Co-curator Tina Kukielski on Joel Sternfeld [1 of 2]
Co-curator Tina Kukielski on Joel Sternfeld [2 of 2]
Co-curator Tina Kukielski on the placement of multiple artworks in the Hall of Sculpture