on view in the Kathy Chan Gallery September 8 – December 29
The world was once thought of as being flat. The horizon line was seen, with great trepidation, as a definitive edge, a cliff that fell off into endless nothingness. Sparky Campanella’s horizon series offers something like that palpable intensity we misinformed humans once felt. These bold photographs of our urban horizon line play with restriction and expansion, dead ends and vortices, taking us to a new edge full of cinematic charge and inadvertent beauty that results where man and nature touch.
Campanella’s use of a 4×5 large-format film camera allows him to control the plane of focus and make both foreground and background equally sharp. The resultant flattening of the image abstracts the scene away from banal reality and draws the viewer into the emotive intent of the series. His equal bifurcation of each image creates a fraternal horizon line when the series is exhibited, allowing him to share the horizon’s calming power with the viewer.
Exhibition organized through Katharine T. Carter and Associates.
Sparky Campanella (born Pittsburgh PA, 1960) is a self-taught fine-art photographer whose landscapes show a human presence in complement with the natural. Currently living in Los Angeles, his images have an emotive intent and tend towards abstraction with a poetic, minimalist aesthetic and a formal mastery of color. He approaches photography from a personal perspective and is inspired by instances of symbiosis between man and nature. Sparky’s interest in taking photographs began as a child, yet it was only in 2005 after a move to New York City that he poured all of his time and energy into photography as a second career. The five years Campanella spent in New York, building a portfolio and immersing himself into the city’s art community, exposed him to a range of influences that ultimately freed him to pursue his own vision.
Campanella’s horizon series uses the urban horizon line to manifest his belief in the compatibility between man and nature. His use of a 4×5 large-format film camera allows him to control the plane of focus and make both foreground and background equally sharp. The resultant flattening of the image abstracts the scene away from banal reality and draws the viewer into the emotive intent of the series. His equal bifurcation of each image creates a fraternal horizon line when the series is exhibited, allowing him to share the horizon’s calming power with the viewer. It’s an effect that’s more typical of a site-specific installation and it demonstrates the attention to detail that Campanella brings to his work.
Campanella has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions nationally including SFCamerawork in San Francisco, Center for Photography at Woodstock, Koelsch Gallery in Houston, David Weinberg Gallery in Chicago, Weston Gallery in Carmel and the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. He holds an undergraduate degree from Duke University and a graduate degree from Stanford University. He has been awarded residencies at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and Anderson Ranch in Colorado. He is represented by Weston Gallery in Carmel.
I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
– The Black Riders; Stephen Crane
Despite significant evidence to the contrary, I believe that man and nature can co-exist. horizon manifests my belief through the urban horizon line, a point of reference common to all city dwellers. The horizon line in nature is defined by the organic complexity of trees, mountains or a body of water. Our urban horizon is bounded by the geometric achievement of buildings, rooftops, walls and even passing trucks. My love of both city and country draws me to scenes where man-made and natural complement one another. That relationship is especially apparent when urban banal becomes extraordinary.
Each horizon image is equally divided between nature and man, a graphical partnership that represents my desire for balance between these two fundamentals. When the series is exhibited, this division creates a fraternal horizon line, bringing the horizon’s calming power right to the viewer. Each image is captured on film with a 4×5 view camera as its control over the plane of focus allows both foreground and background to be made equally sharp. The resultant flattening of the image abstracts the scene away from a pre-conceived reality and towards the emotive intent of the series. I print on matte rag paper as its’ velvet-like, non-reflective finish evokes minimalist painting’s detailed attention to surface, luminosity, monochromaticity, hysicality and edge. Like the minimalist painters, I use these formal devices to better convey what I felt when I first saw the scene.
I have enjoyed deep exposure to both urban and rural my entire life. When I was young I realized that it’s possible for man-made achievements to enhance an already beautiful natural scene. As an adult I have come to realize that these developments are all around us, often in the most unexpected places.
City dwellers leave behind much of the natural world, yet we can’t leave behind our need for that which the horizon provides. We still pursue it.