May 24 - September 1, 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
5:00 - 7:00 PM
Admission: Free/Open to the Public
About the Exhibit
Elevations is a collection of photographs that asks the grain elevator to be appreciated as an art form in and of itself. From the early wooden elevators made using block construction to the patterned groupings of cylindrical shapes seen in the more modern versions of concrete and steel. The images present a rare view of the different types of grain elevator construction from the perspective that their geometries need not be studied simply for their functional use.
The photographs are an exploration of the visual qualities of grain elevators that uses strong light and shadow in high contrast to bring out the aesthetic features of the buildings. Combining abstraction and realism, this approach raises the form to the status of fine art, much in the spirit of the architect LeCorbusier and the precisionist painters.
Elevations uses close-up compositions to help the viewer appreciate the simple lines and form of the construction. As a result, the surrounding environment is minimized. In many of the images not even the sky is visible. The close-up shots lead the viewer to consider geometric forms, patterns and shapes abstractly, independent of scale. However, the collection transcends a purely geometric view as we can observe how the ravages of time have added patina, color and texture to the structures. There is a soft glow emanating from the curved iron panels, the weathered wood and tar patched concrete cracks become abstract expressionist works worthy of our notice.
I grew up on the plains of Kansas where grain elevators are ubiquitous and dominating in the landscape. As a teenager, when I first became interested in photography as an art form, these elevators were one of the first subjects I was drawn to. Living the last 25 years in Montana and Idaho has provided me further connection with these structures, as has traveling often back and forth across the Great Plains. My photographic style has changed over the years but my interest in elevators and related structures has not. A few years ago, I started in earnest to put together a portfolio of images of these farming icons.
The evolution of my interest in elevators as photographic subjects followed the opposite of Gohlke, whose book of elevator photographs I came across while working on this project. Gohlke started out photographing isolated components of elevator structures, but moved to thinking that the buildings cannot be properly considered separate from the surrounding landscape. In contrast, I started out photographing elevators in wide angle shots that also include the surrounding environment, but gradually became more interested in near and close-up views. Even in the widest views of elevators in this portfolio, the surroundings are incidental to the structure itself. The portfolio favors closer views of the graphical and abstract compositions of patterns and shadows that can be found in these structures.
Perhaps it seems odd to speak of architectural details when thinking of grain elevators since they are such utilitarian structures, but that is what many of these photographs are about. I approach photographing elevators much as someone would explore the architectural features of buildings designed with artistic beauty foremost in mind, such as those by Frank Gehry or the great cathedrals of Europe. In contrast to buildings designed primarily to make an architectural statement, elevators are more about function than form. Yet the wide variety of elevator sculptural shapes and textures, as well as the play of shadows across the structures provides as rich a source of images as any Gehry building or cathedral that I’ve seen.
Primarily self-taught, I 've spent thirty-five years exploring self-expression through photography. I originally worked in a black and white darkroom environment. With the advent of advanced digital techniques, I switched to digital methods around 1998. That marked the beginning of an intensive period of discovery and advancement of my art that still continues today.
Larry Blackwood grew up in Kansas and earned a degree in Sociology from Wichita State University. Blackwood took a job in Alaska where he met his wife Connie. The couple moved back to Montana where they built their home in Bozeman and Larry attended a graduate program at Montana State University. His love of learning led him to the University of Alabama where he completed a PHD in Biostatistics. After graduation, Blackwood was employed at the Idaho National Laboratory where he worked as a statistician. In 2007, Blackwood retired and moved back to the family home in Bozemen where he works at his photography full time.
See more of the Elevations collection
Sponsored in part by
Richard & Carol Schleicher
The Towne Printer