Magazine article Artforum International

William Eggleston: Fondation Cartier Pour L'Art Contemporain, Paris. (Reviews: Focus)

Magazine article Artforum International

William Eggleston: Fondation Cartier Pour L'Art Contemporain, Paris. (Reviews: Focus)

Article excerpt

One new photograph, specially commissioned for this 215-image retrospective, shows a spotted pooch, presumably made of porcelain but in any event exceedingly well behaved. Sporting a red leash that leads outside the frame (to its master's hand? to a doorknob?), the animal, an English pointer by the look of it, stares patiently out at us. We can easily guess that the photo was taken in Japan (Kyoto, in fact), or at least in a Far Eastern country, as the upper corner reveals the edge of a poster on which several ideograms appear. Like all of the Japanese photos commissioned for the Fondation Cartier show, William Eggleston's Untitled (Statue of Spotted Dog), 2001, is printed large (forty inches high by thirty inches wide) and hung in one of the two expansive glass boxes that make up the ground floor of Jean Nouvel's building.

To situate these brand-new images within the four-decade career of the photographer from Memphis, Tennessee, one descends to the lower level, where the viewer is greeted by another dog: a cocker spaniel puppy photographed in 1965 in the artist's hometown. This dog's black eyes are also fixed on the viewer, but here they are obscured by dark fur. Displayed near other early southern scenes (a rundown snack bar at night, a driveway bisected by a tree's shadow), the image is among the earliest works by the artist we know will soon abandon black and white to grant color the acceptance it had until then been denied in the art world.

Comparing these two images of canines shot more than three decades apart is instructive as much in terms of what they share as in what distinguishes them, and their differences cannot be reduced simply to the question of color. Both photos perfectly illustrate Eggleston's unorthodox view: "Sometimes I like the idea of making a picture that does not look like a human picture," he says. "Humans make pictures which tend to be about five feet above the ground looking out horizontally. I like very fast flying insects moving all over, and I wonder what their view is from moment to moment. I have made a few pictures which show that physical viewpoint." Indeed, neither the pointer in Kyoto nor the cocker spaniel in Memphis is photographed at human-eye level. Eggleston has placed his lens at dog--or even puppy--height: a fatal vantage for the person holding the spaniel's leash, as the frame cuts off his head and upper torso. It's a singular perspective for the viewer too, who, when locked in either animal's gaze, gets the impression of being on all fours himself.

If the images share the canine point of view, they differ in several significant ways. …

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