Bill Armstrong Photography: SPIRIT-From Darkness to Light

De Santos Gallery Presents:
Bill Armstrong Photography: SPIRIT-From Darkness to Light

HOUSTON, TX – De Santos Gallery is proud to announce that its next opening will highlight the work of Bill Armstrong This new exhibition is titled SPIRIT-From Darkness to Light. The exhibition will run from March 10 to April 2, 2007. De Santos Gallery will host an opening reception with Mr. Armstrong on March 10, 2007 at 6:30pm.

A Note About Bill Armstrong by Fernando Castro

In art doing what you are not supposed to do, occasionally bears interesting results. Arcimboldo painted faces whose parts are edibles, Jackson Pollock dripped paint on canvas, John Chamberlain smashed automobiles, Man Ray made photographs (rayographs) without a camera, etc. Bill Armstrong’s poetics defies traditional photographic practice in two ways. First, he does not photograph objects in the world, but rather objects that already are incipient representations –namely, collages he himself produces with different color papers. Secondly, he photographs these collages not focusing on them but on whatever lies beyond them at an infinite focal distance. This subversive photographic tandem generates a vast array of images with blurred edges and arresting colors.

Moreover, as Armstrong’s works detour the usual routes of photographic denotation they begin to travel along paths of suggestion and connotation. His main body of work appropriately named “Infinity” branches off towards various domains, one of which is the series “Spirit.” Says Armstrong, “This process of extreme blurring allows me to de-materialize the collages and create ephemeral images that explore different aspects of the spiritual.” Indeed, his Mandalas –concentric circles of explosive color–model a Buddhist cosmos where consciousness is but a mere indeterminate point in an infinite universe. Indeed, as the viewer gazes at the pulsating color circles he/she may intuit a path towards an expanding, unbounded space. However, as spiritual as they may be, the Mandalas also bear a model resemblance to stellar matter –red super-giants or imploding/exploding supernovas. So Armstrong’s adjudication of the title “Mandala” to a geometrically abstract image does not necessarily close its interpretation, but merely hints at a few among many interpretations.

Armstrong’s sub-series “Apparitions” and “Figures” are more clearly denotative although their human shapes are still imbued with ambiguity, as if they part of a dream or a nightmare. The black-and-white “Figure 72” shows a figure walking towards (or away) from an ominous shape that may very well be a natural phenomenon or a mushroom cloud. As with dreams concocted in the random firing of our neurons during sleep, we struggle to give Armstrong’s Figures an interpretation. The artist informs us that his Apparitions originate in Roman sculpture photographed at infinite focal length. The art-historical irony thrust upon us by these mysterious faces is that Roman portraits purport to be the first depictions of individual persons whereas Armstrong’s pictures blur every trace of individuality. The artist himself finds an unintended resemblance of some of these images to his own father who died of cancer. Sculptural portraits endure the ravages of time better than most other media, but their hardness is also their fragility. Armstrong states, “Apparition is a personal quest to come to grips with the horror of death and the hope of redemption through image making.”

Although human consciousness fathoms structures that are infinite, human experience is finite. The optical property of infinite focus can be understood as a property of light and lenses. Bill Armstrong finds in the material properties of the photographic medium ways to hint at both the limited human experience and the human consciousness of the unlimited.