“It is the genius of William Christenberry to stir up intensely evocative emotions and meanings from common, even humble, pieces of the world.”
— Howard N. Fox, curator of modern and contemporary art, Los Angeles
County Museum of Art
If you call the current comprehensive exhibition of William
Christenberry's work a "retrospective," he will politely correct
you with his charming Southern drawl: "It's not a retrospective,
because I'm not dead yet."
Nevertheless, the show at the Smithsonian, and the accompanying
book by Aperture, show the artist and his evolutions and variations and
recurrent themes in near encyclopedic form. We discover his strong reliance
on photography dating from his first photographs from 1961 (used primarily
as source material for his painting and sculpture), through his instant
leap from a brownie camera to an 8 x 10 view camera (at the insistence
of his friend Lee Friedlander) in the mid 1970s.
His professional interests have remained intensely personal throughout
his career. He values vernacular architecture and signs from the southern
United States. And he continues to document these kinds of subjects year
after year, to show the deterioration and changes brought about by time
and nature and human intervention.
The book itself is beautifully designed and printed. The sequencing of
material allows you the shock of recognition at the passing of 20-plus
years of time, year by year, of some of the same subject matter. And we
are able to experience how a talented painter and sculptor like Christenberry
can use these captured fleeting moments of time to create paintings, sculptures
and collages.Christenberry spoke to an audience of photography enthusiasts
on December 1, 2006 at a presentation for San Francisco's PhotoAlliance
and Aperture West. Here you can listen to some choice bits from that presentation:
William Christenberry audio:
About bringing photography into his practice as a painter and sculptor:
and personal anecdotes about some of his iconic images: Green Warehouse,
BBQ Inn, Red Building in Forest, Coca-Cola Sign, Door with Christmas Lights,
plus comments about current work of dreamlike sculptures of imaginary
— Jim Casper
InterviewWilliam ChristenberryA year-long retrospective of Christenberry’s work is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. Aperture has also published a new book of his life’s work. Here, we share a representative portfolio of his work, accompanied by a 17 minute audio commentary by...View Images
A year-long retrospective of Christenberry’s work is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. Aperture has also published a new book of his life’s work. Here, we share a representative portfolio of his work, accompanied by a 17 minute audio commentary by...
A year-long retrospective of Christenberry’s work is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. Aperture has also published a new book of his life’s work. Here, we share a representative portfolio of his work, accompanied by a 17 minute audio commentary by Christenberry himself.
Red Building in Forest, 1983
5 Cents, Demopolis, Alabama, 1980
Coleman’s Cafe, Greensboro, Alabama, 1967
Side of Country Store with Palmist Sign in Window, Havana, Alabama, 1964
Palmist Building, Havana, Alabama, 1980
Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alabama, 1978
Green Warehouse, Mixed media, 1996
Magenta Car, Havana, Alabama, 1976
Night Spot, Marion, Alabama, 1972
Church, Sprott, Alabama, 1971
Church, Sprott, Alabama, 1981
"Do You Believe in Jesus, I Do," Stephen Skye’s Place, near Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1966
Signs in Landscape, Near Marion, Alabama, 1975
Wall of Building with 5 Cent Signs, Demopolis, Alabama, 1976
5 Cents, Demopolis, Alabama, 1976
Gourd Tree, near Fayette, Alabama, 1988
Wall Construction V, 1985
River House. Mixed media, 1980
Southern Monument 11, Mixed media, 1983
Star Object, Mixed media, 1977
Country Store with Gasoline Pumps, Emelle Alabama
Colburn Grocery Uniontown
Black House, Red Roses and Rooster
Coleman’s Café, Greensboro, Alabama, 1977
Taylor’s Place, near Greensboro, Alabama, 1974
Kudzu Devouring Building, near Greensboro, Alabama, 2004
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