Since the late 1980s, photography has been a central focus of Stan Douglas’s practice. Penn Station’s Half Century (2021) represents Douglas’s most ambitious exploration of the medium to date. Made with a hybrid of CG and staged photography, the series examines how history manifests in specific places and transitional moments in society.
Join Stan Douglas for a conversation hosted by Public Art Fund about his new permanent public commission Penn Station’s Half Century, 2020, a photographic series that reconstructs nine remarkable but forgotten moments from the history of the original Pennsylvania Station (1910–1963).
On January 1, 2021, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the opening of the new Moynihan Train Hall, along with three unprecedented site-specific art installations by Stan Douglas, artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, and Kehinde Wiley, counted among the most innovative and revered artists working today. As part of the Governor’s visionary transformation of the nation’s busiest transportation hub, the artworks are commissioned through a partnership between Empire State Development (New York State’s economic development agency) and Public Art Fund (the leading non-profit that commissions and presents art in public spaces). A testament to New York’s creativity, diversity, and richly layered heritage, the three monumental commissions complement the new cutting-edge Train Hall, while embracing its civic character. Offering the public a fresh perspective on the history and grandeur of the original Pennsylvania Station and James A. Farley Post Office, Douglas’s, Elmgreen & Dragset’s, and Wiley’s installations bring a sense of wonder and humanity to these public spaces, and will evoke civic pride and delight for generations to come.
Douglas's work, titled Penn Station’s Half Century, draws on archival research to reconstruct nine remarkable but forgotten moments from the history of the original Pennsylvania Station (1910–1963) that capture the serendipity and poignancy of daily life. These vivid evocations of the city’s forgotten history include Bert Williams (singer, comedian, and the first African-American to direct a motion picture) instigating an impromptu vaudeville show with fellow performers stranded in the station during an epic snow storm of 1914, the final moments of affection between soldiers and their loved ones before being deployed in 1941 for duty during World War II, and the soundstage from director Vincente Minnelli’s 1944 love story The Clock, staring Judy Garland.
Douglas photographed live actors in period costume and seamlessly combined them with digitally recreated interiors of the demolished station. The resulting images pay tribute to McKim, Mead & White’s original station, and to the layers of human experience that bring our civic spaces to life. The series of photographic panels are located within four seating alcoves in The Ticketed Waiting Room.
All permanent installations will be on view when the new Train Hall opens January 1, 2021.
Read more in The New York Times
May 11– November 24, 2019
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Carol Bove, and Stan Douglas were included in the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Curated by Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery in London, the exhibition was titled May You Live in Interesting Times. “In a speech given in the late 1930s,” Rogoff states, “British MP Sir Austen Chamberlain invoked an ancient Chinese curse that he had learned of from a British diplomat who had served in Asia, and which took the curious form of saying, ‘May you live in interesting times.’ ‘There is no doubt that the curse has fallen on us,’ Chamberlain observed. ‘We move from one crisis to another. We suffer one disturbance and shock after another.’ This summary sounds uncannily familiar today as the news cycle spins from crisis to crisis. Yet at a moment when the digital dissemination of fake news and 'alternative facts' is corroding political discourse and the trust on which it depends, it is worth pausing whenever possible to reassess our terms of reference. In this case it turns out that there never was any such ‘ancient Chinese curse,’ despite the fact that Western politicians have made reference to it in speeches for over a hundred years. It is an ersatz cultural relic, and yet for all its fictional status it has had real rhetorical effects in significant public exchanges. At once suspect and rich in meaning, this kind of uncertain artefact suggests potential lines of exploration that are worth pursuing at present, especially when the ‘interesting times’ it evokes seem to be with us once again. Hence the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia will be titled after a counterfeit curse.... in an indirect fashion, perhaps art can be a kind of guide for how to live and think in ‘interesting times.’ The 58th International Art Exhibition will not have a theme per se, but will highlight a general approach to making art and a view of art’s social function as embracing both pleasure and critical thinking. The Exhibition will focus on the work of artists who challenge existing habits of thought and open up our readings of objects and images, gestures and situations. Art of this kind grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory and incompatible notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”
Image: Arsenale, Venice. Photo by Andrea Avezzù. Courtesy La Biennale de Venezia
Christopher Phillips gave a guided tour at the gallery of Stan Douglas: DCTs and Scenes from the Blackout. The exhibition presented works from Douglas’s two recent series, DCT (2016–ongoing) and Blackout (2017), that together illustrate the artist’s overarching interest in the nature of photographic representation and its relationship to reality.
Friday, April 6, 5 PM
525 West 19th Street, New York
Christopher Phillips is guest curator at The Walther Collection and adjunct professor in the Department of Photography and Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. He contributed a text to Stan Douglas: Midcentury Studio, published on the occasion of Douglas’s tenth solo presentation at David Zwirner in 2011.
This guided tour coincided with The Photography Show presented by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD).
Curated by Rebecca Cleman from Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) and Ava Tews at Anthology Film Archives, the February 16 program of ON THE AIR presents works created by artists for public television, and also includes films by Ernie Kovacs, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Chris Burden, Dara Birnbaum, and others. The series is being presented in conjunction with the exhibition Broadcasting: EAI at ICA at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (February 2–March 25, 2018).
Douglas’s Television Spots were originally made to be inserted in fifteen- to thirty-second-long slots between the advertisements on a private Canadian television network. The twelve short video sequences were shown on a nightly basis and without any introduction, and feature narrative fragments unfolding in ordinary or banal settings. Similarly, the artist’s Monodramas feature brief, dislocated events—a car and a school bus nearly collide at an intersection, only to drive away; a pedestrian on the street greets an Afro-Canadian man who responds, "I’m not Gary."
As the artist told Roxana Marcoci in an interview after winning the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 2016, "Early projects like the Television Spots and Monodramas were all about an alienation effect, putting an irritant into broadcast television by means of these counterfeit advertisements to make people look at the context around the ads in a different way."
Image: Stan Douglas, still from Monodramas, 1991
Stan Douglas was the recipient of the 2016 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. In celebration of the honor, an exhibition of Douglas's work was presented at the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden. The exhibition was his first in the country and featured new abstract works, as well as an overview of past series and key iconic photographs.
In addition, MACK published a new book about Douglas's practice. The publication features a newly commissioned essay by Noam Elcott, Associate Professor at Columbia University, as well as an interview with Stan Douglas by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator at Museum of Modern Art, New York and Chair of the 2016 Hasselblad Award Jury.
Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator of Photography at MoMA, New York and Chair of the 2016 Hasselblad Award Jury, says of Douglas's work:
Douglas's engagement with the histories of still and moving images, sociological approach to staged and performative work, and critical attention to the apparatus of photography—in terms of historic styles, processes and vintage equipment, and the most sophisticated digital languages of contemporary technology—are transformational.
Pictured above: Selected works from the Hasselblad exhibition
Stan Douglas's innovative stage presentation Helen Lawrence was created in collaboration with screenwriter and producer Chris Haddock and director Kim Collier. Inspired by post-war Film Noir, Helen Lawrence intertwines theatre, visual art, live-action filming and computer-generated recreations of historical backgrounds in a groundbreaking multi-media showcase.
Since the inaugural presentation at The Arts Club Theatre Company, Vancouver in March 2014, Helen Lawrence has been hosted by the Münchner Kammerspiele, Munich; Edinburgh International Festival; Canadian Stage, Toronto; Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York; and deSingel, Antwerp.
Douglas also created Circa 1948, an app that presents interactive digital environments from late 1940s Vancouver. These environments—The Hotel Vancouver and Hogan's Alley—are also settings in Helen Lawrence.
The artist discussed the app (and his practice generally) in The Guardian saying: "Because of technology, nobody believes any more that a photograph is real. But that just means that we have to take more responsibility as creators of images. We can’t just say, 'Oh, this happened to be there when I was there.' You have to take ownership. It’s always a construction, no matter what."
A conversation about collaboration and the obsessive power of good music—touching on Netflix, Kendrick Lamar, and what it’s like to play with Miles Davis.
In the third episode of Dialogues: The David Zwirner Podcast, photographer and multimedia artist Stan Douglas speaks with MacArthur Award–winning pianist and composer Jason Moran—currently Artistic Director for Jazz at the Kennedy Center—about making and experiencing art. These longtime friends and collaborators discuss what it means to awaken ideas through the language of improvisation and exceed viewer expectations.
See Douglas’s work in Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London, and I Was Raised on the Internet at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, both on view through October 14, 2018. Watch Jason Moran perform with saxophonist Charles Lloyd on August 4 and 5 at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. For tickets and more information visit newportjazz.org.
Produced in partnership with Slate Studios, Dialogues: The David Zwirner Podcast is the latest installment in a series of initiatives celebrating the gallery’s twenty-fifth anniversary, which launched in January 2018 with a multi-gallery retrospective in New York and the opening of David Zwirner Hong Kong. "While this year marks an important milestone for the gallery, we continue to look and move forward, whether it be opening a new gallery or exploring new mediums," says David Zwirner. "This is one of the many digital initiatives we are embarking on, to both engage with new audiences and further our artists’ voices." Dialogues: The David Zwirner Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher, and most major podcast applications. #DZDialogues
Image: Stan Douglas, Lucas Zwirner, and Jason Moran recording Dialogues in New York, 2018. Photo by Zac Casto