21c Museum is proud to present Photo/Synthesis: James Baker Hall, the first survey of photographic work by James Baker Hall, whose photographs depict the varied landscapes and creative personalities of his native Kentucky, while foregrounding the sensory experience of the work itself. The seventy images drawn from the collection of the artist represent a body of work that examine Hall’s fascination and experimentation of photography since his childhood.
It has been said that James Baker Hall is both a photographer who writes and a writer who takes pictures. This exhibition explores yet another notion, that James Baker Hall is also a painter who makes photographs. 21c has worked closely with the artist to realize an ambitious exhibition comprising nearly five decades of photographic pursuits.
While Hall is perhaps best known for his more traditional photographic books such as A Spring Fed Pond, 2000 or Tobacco Harvest: An Elegy, 2004, he has simultaneously been creating a body of work that continues to challenge the notion that photography is merely representational. Instead, Hall’s photographs often take on a more painterly quality such as his Orphans in the Attic and Appear to Disappearseries. Similar to painting, Hall is able to record the experience of observation and capture the impression of a landscape or his subject.
Accompanying this exhibition, Larkspur letterpress, a longtime collaborator of Hall’s, has printed a selection of eight poems by Hall that further exemplify the artist’s mastery of diverse mediums.
About the Artist
James Baker Hall is one of the most celebrated Kentucky artists of his generation. Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1935, Hall studied at the University of Kentucky under Robert Hazel among his life-long literary colleagues: Wendell Berry, Ed McClanahan, Gurney Norman, and Bobbie Ann Mason. Hall would then go on to study at Stanford in the 60s alongside Larry McMurty and Ken Kesey forging a lifelong passion for writing, which resulted in a multitude of published works such as The Mother on the Other Side of the World, Sarabande Books, 1999. During this time, he became the close colleague of such photographers as Minor White, Richard Benson, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard, was a contributing editor for Aperture, and lectured widely on photography in such places as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rhode Island School of Design, the Visual Studies Workshop, and the Minneapolis Museum of Art.
Hall returned to Lexington in 1973 to teach at the University of Kentucky as director of the creative writing program. Prior to his retirement from teaching in 2003, Hall was named the Poet Laureate 2001 of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Hall continues to make images and write from his farm in Sadieville, Kentucky with his wife and colleague, novelist Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, author of Come and Go, Molly Snow.
21c Museum would like to thank Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, Erik Tuttle, and Sarah Wylie Ammerman for their generous time and support of the exhibition.