The Eye's Intention: The Photographs and Collages of Arnaud Claass

October 16, 2014 – January 24, 2015
Opening reception: Thursday, October 16, 6-8p

Artist talk: Thursday, October 23, 6:30-8p
Regular hours: Thurs-Sat, 1-6p

Installation views
See press: L'Oeil de la Photographie
Watch a condensed video of the artist talk

Since Arnaud Claass started his art practice in the 1970’s, he has been central to the advancement of and critical debates around photography in France and Western Europe. His photographs have been exhibited and published widely; equally important are the essays and books he has authored. Claass has mentored and challenged generations of new talent in his role as a founding professor at the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie, Arles, France. He has also been a visiting artist and faculty at the International Center of Photography, New York.

601Artspace presents the first major exhibition in the United States to represent four decades of work by Arnaud Claass. American photography and writing have greatly influenced Claass, whose early images resonate with those of Emmet Gowin, Harry Callahan, Robert Frank and Frederick Sommer. Claass’ perceptions of life as captured in his images reveal an intensity given to the moment and its rendering. As a photographer, he absorbs culture and forages for the riches of instantaneous, mysterious, anonymous, personal or political moments. His oeuvre contributes to the dialectic of seeing from within and outside the familiar.

The works exhibited at 601Artspace explore the urban and rural surrounds that Claass haunts in his travels and daily life. Local and intimate settings act as his quarry, particularly those around St. Remy, Provence, where he has photographed the terrain, his wife, Laura, and their children. Later works in color address a continuing shift in his idea of photography as an instrument capable of investigating signs in their physical and semiotic iterations. These works benefit from an ongoing interrogation of authenticity and representation. Recent collage works allow the artist an even greater freedom: he combines pictures and texts to create works that are open to multiple interpretations and scenarios of consciousness.

In addition to the current exhibition, 601Artspace has made a commitment to translate into English Claass’ most recent publication, Of Time in Photography (Du Temps dans la Photographie, Éditions Filigranes, Paris, October 2014). Claass has closely followed theoretical and critical writing from a wide array of artists, writers, philosophers, critics and historians. Of Time in Photography analyzes individual contemporary artworks, considers our assumptions about what is happening when we “trip” the shutter, and suggests that “still” images are less fixed in time than we are accustomed to thinking. Claass deconstructs the digital revolution while remaining optimistic that images can act as conveyors of the real and the imaginary in the face of rapid technological change.

France and the U.S. have enjoyed a remarkably shared terrain in the post-war arts and humanities and, particularly, in photography. Via the works of Arnaud Claass, we are witness to a singular and original encounter between these two cultures. Seeing across the pond is not so hard after all.

Robert Blake
Director of Special Projects, 601Artspace; Curator, The Eye’s Intention: The Photographs and Collages of Arnaud Claass

Image above: Arnaud Claass, Nice (2003), archival pigment print, 8 1/2 x 13 in.

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