Last night, the Meatpacking’s Milk Gallery hosted a private opening reception for famed photographer Steven Sebring’s latest exhibition named: Illumination, Who Are Poets. The show presents a series of massive pictures of contemporary poets that have been distorted into images of enlarged, blurry pixels. Most of the sizable works are mounted on brace Sintra material and complemented by an assortment of smaller, related prints. Also on hand are displays of poet and artist memorabilia throughout the gallery space.
Featured poet portraits in Illumination are of Jim Carroll, the Ramones’ Joey Ramone, REM’s Michael Stipe, legendary singer-songwriter Neil Young, famed punk-rock revolutionary Patti Smith, composer Philip Glass, and singer Richard Hell. All have made major spoken-word, lyrical and literary contributions to contemporary poetry and/or music.
“We are constantly looking at still and video images through compressed formats, on smaller screens, on shrinking devices. I invert the approach to current media, by enlarging the minuscule detail of compressed imagery to a point of beautiful abstract distortion. I make a statement on the nature of the poet – we can see these faces at a distance, but the tiles prevent us from recognizing the subjects at a closer range. The sum of their work and voices touches us, but they are, as all people are, ultimately unknowable,” elaborated Steven Sebring in a statement about the exhibit.
Sebring, known for his prominent fashion photography career—shooting campaigns for Ralph Lauren, DKNY and Coach, has always had strong ties to the music and literary communities. A long-time collaborator of Patti Smith’s, he produced an 11-year documentary, Dream of Life, which transcended into the private life of the cult icon. He won the 2008 Sundance Award for Cinematography and earned a 2010 Primetime Emmy for his efforts. Sebring’s often poignant and raw photography investigates humanity at its most honest, intimate and vulnerable. With Illumination, he attempts to evolve his art, relying on mixed media and a more multi-dimensional approach, giving his viewers a new perspective on his subjects.
To realize this for the exhibition, Sebring selected 12 archival Polaroid and film-shot portraits and pixilated them with digital technology. From close-up, the pictures are indistinct colored tiles, but from a distance the faces they depict become clearer.
Admirers of the downtown art scene swarmed the various images, installations and cases of art, fueled by the bar. Tastemakers seen and heard at the opening: designers Richard Chai, Reed Krakoff, Nanette Lepore, and Victoria Bartlett; Lady Liliana Cavendish; and models Irina Lazareanu, Miles McMillan, and Jamie Burke.
In the last hour, Patti Smith delivered a memorable special concert performance, reading the powerful words of some of the poets being honored—and singing an assortment of songs from several others. A most notable treat was when Lenny K and Michael Stipe joined her on stage for several tunes.
Prices for prints begin at $1,800 for smaller limited edition archival pigments to $20,000 for pieces. Steven Sebring’s Illumination, Who Are Poets will be on view (with pieces on sale), at Milk Gallery, until April 17.