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" The nature of visual perception intrigues me: how the eye continually tries to resolve these images, but is unable to do so, and how that is unsettling. And I am drawn to the idea that we can believe something is real, while at the same time knowing it is illusory; that the experience of visual confusion, when the psyche is momentarily derailed, is what frees us to respond emotionally. At the same time, the subject of these collages is color; extreme de-focusing enables me to blend and distill hues, creating rhapsodies of color that are meditative pieces - glimpses into a space of pure color, beyond our focus, beyond our ken."

Bill Armstrong

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“Like a sculptor, Armstrong has pared away all but the figure, letting it fly or fall or struggle. Removing extraneous detail, he gives it new life. Armstrong breathes into the darkness to reveal the shadow of man against the light, the classic tale as well as the essence of photography.”

W.M. Hunt, ‘Shadow in the Sun’

Renaissance is a portfolio of photographs in the ongoing Infinity series: an extensive body of work begun in 1997. They are made using a unique process of photographing found images extremely out of focus, with the lens set at infinity. In this case, the source materials are reworked master drawings, mostly from the Renaissance. The multi-layered process of reproduction and blurring, appropriating an image and subjecting it to a series of manipulations (photocopying, cutting, painting, re-photographing) transforms the original images, giving them a new meaning in a new context - a renaissance of the Renaissance.

The original drawings were attempts to capture the human figure in a specific action, either from Biblical, mythological or historical scenes, but the rough sketches are removed from the milieu of the larger whole. Armstrong’s process accentuates the extraction, removing them further from their context and adding a new psychology of colour to the achromatic drawings. Extreme blurring erases features, dissolves identity and obscures individuality while retaining the essence of the original gesture, so that a 15th century religious figure can have secular relevance today.

The themes of the images in Renaissance move in opposing directions. Some of the figures seem to be ascending - flying, floating, or otherwise suspended - and represent man’s aspirations toward freedom. Or, conversely they may seem to be falling or doomed, as the crucifixes and divers become oddly interchangeable. Others are bound, bent, tethered or twisted and appear to be struggling against the frame, representing the limits and agonies of the human condition. At the same time the photographs may be seen as motion studies of dancers or athletes, reminiscent of Isadora Duncan’s search for a Hellenic ideal, ironically fluid and active for reproductions of action frozen.

The images are intended as meditative pieces, transporting the viewer to another world. Human-centred like the civic humanist ideals of the 15th century, these visions are concurrently ethereal and luminous: an exaltation of the spirit.

Bill Armstrong’s art has been featured in numerous international solo and groups exhibitions since 1997 at such noted institutions as the Hayward Gallery, London; the Houston Centre for Photography, TX; Musée De l’Elysee, Switzerland and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA. A recent participant in Aperture’s curated show Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography, an image from Armstrong’s series Mandalas was selected as the cover artwork. Upcoming solo exhibitions include a retrospective of the Infinity series, 1998 – present, at the Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, FL and Forma Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan at Paris Photo. Armstrong’s artwork is held in many important public and private collections including: Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA, Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London among others.

“My overarching aim is to use blur to create a parallel universe which can act as a spirit double for the material world.  While my work pretends to be of the real world, that is an illusion, a conjurer’s trick. My process involves making two-dimensional collages from found or appropriated images, and then photographing them extremely out of focus. By turning the lens to infinity—a setting meant for capturing depth of field—and then shooting close up, I subvert the photographic norm. The setting meant for sharpness and hyper-realism becomes, instead, a tool for magic and distortion. As the blur increases, the edges within the collages melt and disappear. The photographs appear to be integrated, seamless images of things that exist in three dimensional space. It is this sleight of hand that allows me to create a mysterious tromp l’oeil world, hovering between the real and the fantastic.

The blur lifts the subjects from the plane of reality and launches them into an indeterminate ephemeral space. They become meditative objects floating in the ether. While the eye continually tries to resolve the blur, it is unable to do so, and that is unsettling. I am drawn to the idea that we can believe something is real, while at the same time knowing it is illusory. The experience of visual confusion—when the psyche is momentarily derailed—can free us to respond emotionally. 

I look to devotional art, particularly Eastern mandalas, for inspiration. My hope would be that the viewer, in trying to decipher the blur, will find themselves transported in some way; that these images might be a starting point for a unique journey of perception, perhaps even a revelation.”
Bill Armstrong, New York City, 2009



SOLO EXHIBITIONS:

2011 Photographs From the Infinity Series, 1998-Present, Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, FL,
2010
'Renaissance' HackelBury Fine Art Ltd
2009
'Renaissance' Gallery Kayafas, Boston, MA, February-March
2008
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, “Photo Mandalas: Bill Armstrong and Milan Fano Blatny,” September 6, 2008 — February 1, 2009, Curated by Katherine Ware.
ClampArt, New York, NY, “Renaissance,” January 10 –February 16
2007
Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh, PA, “Apparition,” March-April (two person exhibition). DeSantos Gallery, Houston, TX, “Spirit: From Darkness to Light,” March
2006
Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO, “Blue Sphere,” September. Parkerson Gallery, Houston, TX, “Apparition,” March. Scott White Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA, “Photographs From the Infinity Series,” January
2005
ClampArt, New York, NY, “Apparition,” September. Gallery Kayafas, Boston, MA, “Spirit,” January
2004
ClampArt, New York, NY, “Spirit,” January-February
2003
Sara Nightingale Gallery, Water Mill, NY, “Recent Photographs,” August . Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA, “Mandala,” May-July. Joel Soroka Gallery, Aspen, Colorado, “Mandala,” February
1997-2002
An American Space Gallery, New York, NY, “Photographs From the Infinity Series,” January, 2001
McCann-Erikson Gallery, New York, NY, “Recent Photographs,” August, 2000. Roy Park School of Communications, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY, “Recent Photographs,” Nov-Dec., 1999
International Center of Photography Education Gallery, New York, NY, “Accidental Portraits,” July, 1997
Uma Gallery, New York, NY, “Recent Photographs,” May-June, 1997

SELECTED COLLECTIONS:

Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris, France
Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan, Italy
DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Lehigh University Art Galleries, Bethlehem, PA
Musee De l’Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA
Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, FL
W. M. Hunt/Dancing Bear, New York, NY
Woodstock Center for Photography, Woodstock, NY

GROUP EXHIBITIONS:

2009
Forma Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan, Paris Photo booth, The Scene and the Dream of Photographs, Nov.
New Britain Museum of Art, New Britain, CT. “The Christopher Hyland Collection,” June-Sept.
Aperture Foundation, NY, NY “The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography,” May
School of Visual Arts, NY, NY, “Contact Sheet,” April
2008
School of Visual Arts, NY, NY, “Faculty Exhibition,” January-February
2007
International Center of Photography, NY, NY, “Faculty Exhibition: About This,” November-January, 2008
Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO, “Renaissance,” May-July
Forma Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan, Italy, “Faccia a Faccia, Il nuovo ritratto contemporaneo,” Apr.- June
Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, “Oog-Eye: Photographs from Collection Dancing Bear,” Feb.-April
2006
International Center of Photography, NY, NY, “Faculty Exhibition,” September-October
Houston Community College Central Fine Art Gallery, “Figure in the Landscape,” September
Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO, “On the Edge,” Curated by Stephen Perloff, July-Aug.
Musee De l'Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland, “No Eyes: the Dancing Bear Collection of W. M. Hunt,” March-June
2005
Lancaster Museum of Art, Lancaster, PA, “Photo National,” Curated by Kate Ware, August-September
Recontres D’Arles, Arles, France, “Sans regardes, or no eyes: looking at collection Dancing Bear,” June-July
Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA, February-May
DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA, “Luminous Forms: Abstractions in Color Photography,” Sept. 2004-January 2005
2004
Hayward Gallery, London, UK, “About Face,” Curated by William Ewing, June-September
Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, FL, “Fresh Works,” Curated by Kevin Miller, June-September
McKenzie Fine Art, New York, NY, “I want to take you higher,” July-August
Cooper Classics Collection, “Colorscapes,” Curated by Jennifer Gyr, June-September
Scott White Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA, April-May
The Print Center, Philadelphia, PA, “78th Annual Competition,” Curated by Darsie Alexander, April-June
Musee De l'Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland, “Je t’envisage,” Curated by William Ewing, February-June
Scott White Contemporary Art, Telluride, CO, “Grand Opening Exhibition,” January-February
2003
Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, “Concerning the Spiritual in Photography,” Curated by Leslie Brown, January-March
Culturgest, Lisbon, Portugal, Curated by William Ewing, October-December
Sara Nightingale Gallery, Water Mill, NY, “Fear of Flying,” October
Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York, NY, “Photographs by Seven Contemporary Artists,” July-August
Woodstock Center for Photography, Woodstock NY, “Photography 2003,” Curated by Therese Mulligan, April
Sara Nightingale Gallery, Water Mill, NY, January-February
2002
International Center of Photography, New York, NY, “The House of Light,” Curated by Bernard Yenelouis, December
American Space Gallery, New York, NY, “Gallery Artists Exhibition,” Fall
Kingston Gallery, Boston MA, “New Art '02,” Curated by Lelia Amalfitano, July
Houston Center for Photography, Houston, TX, Curated by Anne Tucker, June
International Center of Photography, New York, NY, “Faculty Exhibition,” Spring
2001
“Here is New York,” New York, NY, Fall
Fulton Street Gallery, Troy, NY, “Contemporary Photography for the New Millenium,” Curated by Anthony Montoya, September-October
Benham Studio Gallery, Seattle, WA, “Deceit of the Intellect,” June-July
2000
Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, MA, “Material Revelations: Variations on Collage,” November
Casa da Fotografia Fuji, Sao Paulo, Brazil, “Mostra De Portfolios 2000,” December
Joel Soroka Gallery, Aspen, Colorado, “Gallery Artists Show,” October

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS:

2009
Lyle Rexer, The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography, Aperture, Cover, pp 212-213
Cate McQuaid, “A Radiant Renaissance,” The Boston Globe, March 11 Arts & Performance p. 4
Robert Hirsch, Photographic Possibilities, Focal Press, p. 36
2008
Lisa Phillips, “Focus on Light and Thrift,” New York Times, Escapes, Nov. 21
Edith Newhall, “Something to Meditate on: Mandalas in Photographs,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 5
Robert Wasserman, “Photo Mandalas,” Art Matters, October.
David Smith. “Photo Mandalas,”Antiques & The Arts Weekly, August, 15
Robert Schaefer, “Spirit With a Sleight of Hand,” Double Exposure, April
Bill Armstrong, “An Accidental Photographer,” Camera Arts, January-February, pp. 82-87
W. M. Hunt, “A Shadow in the Sun” Exhibition Catalogue, ClampArt, pp. 3-5
2007
Jerome Groopman, “Silent Minds” The New Yorker, October 15, p.39
Mary Voelz Chandler, “Neri’s Figures Impress,” Rocky Mountain News, May 18, Spotlight
Michael Paglia, “Cold Pastoral,” Westword, May 31, Arts and Entertainment
2006
William Ewing, FACE: The New Photographic Portrait, Thames and Hudson, pp. 212-213
Claire Stacey Shabsis, “Apparition,” Eyemazing, April, pp. 112-119
A. D. Coleman, “Going to the Many,” AG, April, pp. 30-41
A. D. Coleman, “Going to the Many,” Lemon, February, pp. 85-92
Lewis H. Lapham, “Findings,” Harpers, January, p. 96
David Schimke, “Calm in the Chaos,” Utne Reader, January/February, pp. 47, 51
2005
A.D. Coleman, “Going to the Many,” Exhibition Catalogue, ClampArt
Bill Armstrong, “Color Harmony in Photography,” Photo Techniques, November/December, pp. 24-27
B. Allan Wallace, “What is true happiness?” Tricycle, Fall, pp. 71, 77, 84
Caroline Cunningham, “(american scene) photography RING MASTER,” House & Garden, March, p. 93
Cate McQuaid, “Bypassing reason for feeling, soft-focus photos return,” The Boston Globe, Jan. 14, p. E22
Christopher Millis, “Photographs by Bill Armstrong,” The Boston Phoenix, January 7, Arts p. 23
Charles Giuliano, Maverick Arts Magazine, Issue Number 165, January 10
2004
Christine Temin, “These photographers don’t shoot for reality,” The Boston Globe, Dec. 5
Robert Hirsch, Exploring Color Photography, McGraw-Hill, p. 263
James Murphy, “Fresh work IV,” Exhibition catalogue, Southeast Museum of Photography, pp. 2-3, 4-5
William Ewing, “About Face,” Exhibition Catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London, p. 51
Neil Kendricks, “Nerve Cell,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, April 29, Visual Arts Section
Leslie Brown, “Concerning the Spiritual in Photography,” In the Loupe, January-February, p. 4-8
2003
Stephen Perloff, The Photo Review, 2003, p. 43
William Ewing, “De Caras! O retrato esta morto! Viva la cara,” Culturgest, Lisbon, p. 4
Eric Ernst, “Reverence for Body and Spirit,” The Southampton Press, August 7, p. B13
Joan Baum, “In the Gallery,” Southampton Independent, August 13, p. B9
Mairi Beautyman, “Update,” Interior Design, July, p. 40
Chronogram, June, Cover
2002
Alice George, “Here is New York,” A Democracy of Photographs, Scalo, p.397
Ben Widdecomb, “Private Eye: in collector John Bennette's world, image is everything.”
Art & Auction, November, p. 94-107
Cate McQuaid, “Gallery Review,” The Boston Globe, July 12, p. 17
2001
Rose Marie Nakamura, “L'homme qui murmure a l'oreille de l'infini,” Art Actuel, May-June, pp. 68-71
Helena Tovar, “Viaje al Infinito,” Foto Reflex, Ano 6, No. 27, pp. 25-32
Vince Aletti, “Photo Choices,” The Village Voice, February 20
1997-2000
Meghan Bragdon, “Material Revelations: Variations on Collage,” Exhibition Catalogue, The Fuller Museum of Art
Anton Perich, “Interview,” Night Magazine, July, 1997
Vince Aletti, “Photo Choices,” The Village Voice, June 17, 1997

   
     
   



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