Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to present its first solo exhibition of the major American photographer Anthony Hernandez. Following the acclaimed retrospective of the artist at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition features a selection from his remarkably varied body of work spanning over 45 years and ranging from series in black and white that originated in the 1970s and -80s to recent large-scale color photographs.
The social landscape in an urban environment is the focus of Anthony Hernandez’s photography, which is united by its formal aesthetics. Born in Los Angeles in 1947, Hernandez begins photographing everyday life in his native city in the 1970s, acknowledging its implied cultural differences of class and race. Waiting, Sitting, Fishing and Some Automobiles (Los Angeles, 1978-1982) is the title of one of his most important early works, a series of 42 black and white photographs that depict people waiting at bus stops, people lunching or sitting in public spaces, people at public fishing areas, and automobile repair shops – a panorama of the ordinariness of working class life. Hernandez applies the formal approach of landscape photography to the streets of Los Angeles, creating detailed compositions of a depth that gives room to socio-political nuances. The normality of the subjects chosen by the artist counteracts the glamorous myth of the metropolis. In his early sequence LA 1971Hernandez again documents the routines of the urbanites. Positioning his camera in front of a diner’s door he photographs the leaving guests one by one.
In his series Rodeo Drive (1984), one of his most renowned works today that marks his transition to color photography, Hernandez paints a picture of the 80s in the unmistakable colors of the decade and allows the viewer a look at the rich and the beautiful on Beverly Hills’ famed shopping street. The project Landscape for the Homeless (1988-91) visualizes the living conditions of homeless people at the fringes of the city through images of their few private belongings and makeshift shelters. The New York Times describes the look of the photographer as “both forensic and poetic”. Hernandez also implies the perspective of homeless people in his later series Forever by capturing the views from their sleeping places: be it a cloudless blue sky framed by climbing plants or a wall of chipped paint, which appears so close that it verges on the abstract. These pictures embody a paradox in that they show the impossibility of the documentary pursuit of looking through somebody else’s eyes while at the same time bringing photography’s dependence on this very condition to mind. Hernandez has also practiced a kind of urban archeology in his body of work Discarded since 2011, exploring abandoned trailer parks in the Mojave Desert and other desert areas outside the sprawling expanses of Los Angeles with its ten million inhabitants. In the wake of the housing crisis and economic recession people had moved to the periphery of the city. Many of these communities have since been deserted again and in Hernandez’s images they are left like ruins of the Californian utopia in the arid landscape.
Anthony Hernandez’s varied work ranges from street portraiture to landscape and vernacular architectural details, which the artist subtilizes into minimalist compositions of pure color and form. Even in the tendency towards abstraction, a tension with reality can be sensed that is always present in the integrity of his oeuvre.
Hernandez’s photographs are collected by major institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute Chicago, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Tate Modern in London, the Fonds National d’ Art Contemporain in Paris, and the Sprengel Museum Hannover. His work has been shown in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally and is accompanied by many outstanding books by the artist. A retrospective catalogue was published in 2016 by D.A.P. / San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.