Elijah Gowin
Into the Sun

September 8 — October 22, 2011


Into the Sun presents new works from Elijah Gowin's most recent series. Gowin's work has always been simultaneously engaged with questions around belief, ritual and memory as well as the material status of photographic representation. As critic Lyle Rexer writes, "Elijah Gowin is the prophet of this longing, the diviner of such dreams. His work confronts the impenetrability of the world and the challenge of representing it."

In this series Gowin has transgressed one of the most basic guidelines of photography, and of the gift of sight more generally by looking directly into the sun. To look in this direction is to seek communion with its faraway, generative force. At the same time it is an act that courts blindness, as the capacity for vision potentially self-ignites under its own ambition, like Icarus's melted wings. The eternal light source is that which enlivens our world generally, and which enables photography's particular art. Gowin's images reach towards the transformative and the transcendental. The world around us becomes a series of screens through which light itself is revealed — clouds, tree branches, a window pane. In the process, the same could be said about photography. Photography in these pictures represents a form of altered vision, a second perceptual apparatus for engaging the world. By staring directly at the light source, in many cases the optical structure of the camera is made explicit via lens flares and other distortions. Such unpredictable effects resound in surprising explosions of color and tone; at times, the distinctions between things seem to dissolve. Alongside the watercolor-like textures of the material support, Gowin shows photography to be a material engagement with the world—rather than a transparent window on it—but in such a way that enables visionary dreaming. To risk blindness is also to be offered the possibility of transformative sight.

The exhibition is the debut of pictures from Into the Sun, and coincides with the publication of Gowin's monograph, Of Falling and Floating. The book comprises three series, including Into the Sun, and an introduction by curator and critic Lyle Rexer; it is published by Tin Roof Press in an edition of 1000. Copies will be available at the gallery.

Into the Sun is Elijah Gowin's third solo exhibition at Robert Mann Gallery. His photographs are in numerous public collections including the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. In 2008 Gowin was the recipient of a John S. Guggenheim Fellowship. He is an associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, where he lives.

The New Yorker
September 12, 2011

After two previous series of photographs based on appropriated and manipulated material, Gowin picks up his camera and points it at the sun. As usual, his results are low-tech and grainy, as if blown up from antique negatives; they're visionary, abstracted, and a little mad. Whether obscured by clouds, seen through branches, or giving off an aura of glittering flares, Gowin's sun has a lambent glow. And even at its brightest, it rarely feels hot, because the colors are so muted: pale greens, blush pinks, storm-cloud slates. Subtlety is rarely this compelling.