OUT OF TIME
May 7 - July 10, 2015
Rick Wester Fine Art is pleased to present David Battel: Out of Time, the first solo exhibition by the New York photographer in almost 20 years. Since the early 1990s, David Battel has photographed the streets of New York and other cities as if driven by ghosts. During a brief career in the fashion and film industries, an assignment to create images of New York to be edited into a television episode provided inspiration to photograph as if the present was not present. Seeking out idiosyncratic denizens of the streets in black and white, with surgically precise in-camera editing and the patience of Job, Battel’s photographs quote the full vocabulary of the history of documentary and street photography from Lewis Hine to Garry Winogrand.
Ambiguity is seldom the aim in picture making, but Battel has grasped the idea as a revered subject, a unique approach, devoid of effect or self. To find his subjects he scours the streets looking for those that may have forgotten time or appear to have traveled from another era entirely, a task increasingly more difficult by the evolution of the mobile phone into the ubiquitous smart phone. In love with the 20th century, Battel has roundly ignored the 21st. He hosts no websites and eschews social media, preferring to concentrate his efforts on shooting (film) and printing (gelatin silver prints).
An image from New York in 1997 reflects his dedication to speaking to the past. A dark haired woman with a downward, worried glance holds a shawl around her head and over her shoulders with a single hand. On the street, behind her and slightly out of focus sits a battered suitcase. Lewis Hine’s Ellis Island Madonna meets Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother on 34th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, 90 and 60 years later.
In several street pictures, Battel remarkably finds subjects worthy of Winogrand at his best in the 1960s and 70s. In one 8th Avenue image a couple with their son sit stuck in traffic in an uncovered 1963 Cadillac convertible, redolent of Winogrands’ essential subjects: New York, families, cars.
Battel’s quotations of his predecessors’ work are not to be mistaken for mimicry or imitation. Like Charlie Parker quoting A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody when a beautiful woman entered a nightclub or Bobby Radcliff picking apart the riffs of Magic Sam, B.B. King, Buddy Guy or Lightnin' Hopkins, Battel respects the history of his genre. In Battel’s case, his Leica is his Fender. He lets loose in a deep-seated dedication not often encountered in the age of digital ease.
All works © 2015 David Battel.