Excavating the Underground

Sponsored by Department of Art & Art History


July 6, 2010 – August 8, 2010

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Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery

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Event Details:

The Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University is pleased to present Excavating the Underground on view from July 6 to August 8, 2010, with an opening reception on July 8, from 5-7 PM, at the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery.

Excavating the Underground brings together the work of Jennifer Little and Mike Osborne, two photographers whose paths first crossed in 2003 when both were graduates at the University of Texas at Austin. Their work reflects a consistent commitment to the idea of the camera as a tool for mining social landscape. In this exhibition, two series are presented that share the unusual distinction of having been photographed in subterranean urban realms, illuminating the latent complexity of apparently ordinary aspects of contemporary cities.

In Barriers and Conduits, Jennifer Little ventures beneath the street to explore the urban waterways of Austin, Texas. Shooting from within culverts and beneath bridges she repurposes these concrete conduits as frames for the verdant swathes of land that line the city's creeks. The dark, cave-like walls enveloping the landscape call to mind that which cannot be seen — the streets above and the broader expanse of the urban grid.

Mike Osborne's Underground centers on the subterranean waiting areas of the Stadtbahn in Stuttgart, Germany. Collectively, the pictures are a reflection on the psychology of public transit — visualizations of quiet rumination that such in-between spaces can evoke. Like a trip through the metro system tunnels, the photographs present a succession of isolated figures as they wait for their trains. The commuters are abstracted from the flow of activity, captive to a stillness that contradicts the fleeting glances of an actual passage through a transit system.

In the two bodies of work, the subterranean setting also lends certain metaphorical qualities. With consistent framing, lush landscapes, and complex reflections, Little's Barriers and Conduits evoke Platonic cave with all of its attendant optical and photographic resonances; in Osborne's Underground, the isolated figures and spare but vibrant station interiors suggest a kind of purgatorial theater.

Jennifer Little has exhibited her work at The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, The LAB in San Francisco, Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento, Eisentrager-Howard Gallery in Nebraska, and The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO, among others. She received her B.F.A. in Photography from Washington University, St. Louis, and her M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. In summer 2009, she completed an Artist's Residency at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

Texas-based artist and photographer Mike Osborne has exhibited at numerous institutions including the Dallas Museum of Art, Austin Museum of Art, Arthouse, and Houston Center for Photography. He received his B.A. in English from Stanford University and M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2008, he was the recipient of a development grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Houston Center for Photography Fellowship. He recently completed an Artist Residency at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany, where he presented an exhibition early this year.

VISITOR INFORMATION: Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 AM—5 PM, and Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 PM. Admission is free. The Gallery is located at 419 Lasuen Mall. Parking is free after 4 PM and all day on weekends. Information: (650) 723-2842, website.

Admission Info

Free and open to the public