October 2, 2006

Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour Exhibition in London



Victoria and Albert Museum, London

10 October - 17 December 2006


This autumn, the V&A will exhibit around 50 works by international contemporary artists who have explored the visual and psychological effects of twilight. Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour will include work by established photographers Robert Adams, Gregory Crewdson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Bill Henson and Boris Mikhailov as well as emerging talents, Chrystel Lebas and Liang Yue and a specially commissioned film installation by Ori Gersht.

These artists explore the threshold between the familiar and the unknown, the comfortable and the dangerous and show twilight to be a poignant hour when sensibilities change and potential-laden atmospheres emerge. Twilight is used to present or facilitate the subversion of normality, the darker side of fantasies and the fairytale gone awry.

Twilight’s alchemical qualities have long attracted artists. Technically ambitious attempts to record and replicate the ambiguity of twilight can be mapped throughout the history of photography and have been particularly evident in recent years.

Martin Barnes, Curator of Photographs at the V&A and co-curator of the exhibition, said: “This exhibition will reveal the allure of the magic moment of twilight. In recent years, an increasing number of photographers internationally have chosen to explore the subject. It is an area of contemporary art where emotion and romanticism still have great currency.”

Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour interweaves a range of explorations of the theme and will feature series of works by eight artists:

Robert Adams will be represented by printed black and white photographs from the series Summer Nights (1979-82), which were taken along the Eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Amid urbanisation, Robert Adams focuses on the continuing beauty of trees, sky and the shape of the land. 

A selection from Gregory Crewdson’s Twilight series (1998-2002) will be on show together with his Beneath the Roses series (2003-05). They feature elaborately-constructed cinematic tableaux of bizarre, primeval rituals staged in pristine suburbs.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hollywood series (1990-92) reveals the flip side of sunlit Hollywood through portrayals of male sex-workers and drifters along Sunset Boulevard at the brief, visually charged moment when natural light and artificial light are in perfect balance.

Ori Gersht will be producing a specially commissioned new film installation for this exhibition. It will be shown alongside his Rear Window series in which he records dramatic twilight skies above London, referenced by slithers of skyline at the base of the prints.

Bill Henson is a passionate explorer of twilight zones, of the ambiguous spaces between day and night, youth and adulthood, male and female, nature and civilization. This will be the first major showing of the Australian artist’s work in the UK.  On display will be his untitled photographs of landscapes at dusk (2000-03) that show an industrial ‘no-man’s land’ that lies on the outskirts of cities, peopled by androgynous figures.

Chrystel Lebas will show works from her Abyss series (2003) in which she uses panoramic long exposures to capture the eerie atmosphere of forests at dusk in France, Germany and Japan. This is the moment when light is still present outside the confined space of the forest, yet darkness spreads under the trees. Also included will be her triptych made in the Arctic circle, Between Dog and Wolf (2005), ( from the French saying ‘entre chien et loup’) that describes the mystical atmosphere when day turns to night.  An hour-long film, Blue Hour (2005), captures the onset of twilight in a forest in real time.

Boris Mikhailov will be represented by works from his At Dusk series (1993), taken in the artist’s home city of Kharkow in the Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Recording this period of transition, the series also references the city’s traumatic experiences during the artist’s childhood in World War II.

Liang Yue’s Several Dusks (2003) will be shown. These images are shot on the streets of Beijing where the haziness of dusk is precipitated by dust, sandstorms and pollution. 

The exhibition was curated by V&A’s photography curators, Martin Barnes and Kate Best.

A new book will be published by the V&A and Merrell Publishers to accompany the exhibition, Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour by Martin Barnes and Kate Best (£35 Hardback).  With contributions from Steven Connor, Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck College, London and Emily Winterburn Curator of Astronomy at the Royal Observatory.


Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

10 October - 17 December 2006

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