JOINS OFFICE BAROQUE
Since the 1970s, John Divola has used photography to explore themes of neglect and disuse in his native Southern California. Throughout his multi-dimensional practice, Divola has often used uninhabited structures and the surrounding environment as studio for his own idiomatic work. Divola’s career spans over four decades, focusing on the conceptions and limitations of photography. Although the physical subjects that John Divola photographs range from buildings to landscapes to objects in the studio, his concerns are conceptual: they challenge the boundaries between fiction and reality, as well as the limitations of art to describe life.
Divola grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which he credits as having an impact on his development as an artist. He earned a BA from California State University, Northridge in 1971 and an MA from University of California, Los Angeles in 1973. In college, the new art movements that inspired him — Minimalism, Conceptualism, and Earthworks — were often not easily accessible, but encountered through photographic documentation. “I came to the conclusion that [photography] was the primary arena of contemporary art,” Divola has said, “and that all painting and sculpture and performance was, from a practical point of view, made to be photographed, to be re-contextualized, and talked or written about.” After earning an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1974, Divola developed his own combination of performance art, sculpture, and installation, with photography at its conceptual core.
In 1974 Divola made a photographic series entitled Vandalism, in which he graffito’d and documented the interiors of condemned buildings. In his Zuma series of photographs from 1977, he used deserted houses on Zuma Beach and covered their walls in graffiti. He photographed the ocean from the house’s interior through windows and cracks. Discussing this early work, Divola said ‘I attempted … to develop a practise in which there could be no distinction between the document and the original.’
Isolated Houses (1995-1998), Divola’s vivid color photographs of one-room dwellings in the desert area around Twentynine Palms, California, emerged out of his longstanding interest in the Southern California landscape. At the center of each square image is a square house-sometimes shown close up, other times, at a distance. The physical relationship between each man-made structure and its immediate surroundings, blur visual distinctions between what is natural and what is artificial.
In the Dark Star series (2007-2008), dark circles have been painted on the walls of an abandoned house. Creation and destruction are held in a delicate equilibrium, the white rooms of the house, are tattered and derelict. The domestic ruins suggest social collapse, secret renditions of something darkly sinister illuminating our conflicted recent history.
The series Abandoned Paintings (2007-2008) that was included in the Whitney Biennial’s 2017 edition, was inspired by the artist’s discovery of a trove of discarded student paintings in a dumpster near the University of California, Riverside, where he is a longtime professor. Divola incorporated the salvaged paintings into his work, hanging the aspirational, often-unfinished canvases on the walls of abandoned buildings. In recent series like Theodore Street (2012) Divola uses Gigapan camera technology to create hi res panoramas.
Photographing manipulated and inhabitable environments and applying his own interventions, Divola explores the relation between real and artificial representations of the image. For Divola, photography functions as a transcendental medium, accommodating performance and manipulation of perception.
John Divola’s work has been featured in more than seventy solo exhibitions in the United States, Japan, Europe, Mexico, and Australia. The retrospective John Divola: As Far As I Could Get was held concurrently at Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Pomona College Museum of Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2013. An individual exhibition of Divola’s work is currently up at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, CA thru September 8, 2019.
Since 1975, John Divola has been a professor of photography and art at numerous institutions including California Institute of the Arts (1978-1988), and since 1988 at the University of California, Riverside.
John Divola’s first individual exhibition at Office Baroque will be opening on June 20th and run thru July 27th, 2019.
For any further information on John Divola, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org