I’ve only met a handful of artists who are recipients of the Guggenheim Fellowship. Although I’m sure a broader survey will turn up a few sour apples, my experience so far paints them as a remarkably articulate and passionate lot. Like the others, Bill Daniel is a true fan of his own work. As he gave me a tour of the photographs, video, and found objects that compose his 25-year retrospective, Ground Score, at Get This! Gallery, his voice took on a youthful lilt that belied the signs of gray above his brow.
An excerpt from my forthcoming review in print:
The ’65 Chevy imaged in Sailvan is the one Daniel still drives today. (It was a delightful rust-orange the morning we met.) The white boat sails are real; he often employs them for projecting films, including his acclaimed documentary on train-yard graffiti, Who is Bozo Texino? In this utterly ethereal photograph, the van seemingly floats on a vast expanse of water, disturbing our belief in what is actually the solid desert ground. Somewhere between the magical and the real, Daniel’s ecological themes finally surface. What will we do if the oil runs out? Attach sails to our now useless vehicles? Here, the answer affirms the danger facing our planet, and transforms it into comedic wonder. Yes—we will do what we must, laughing not in spite of the tragedy, but in heroic embrace of it.
Ground Score contains several projects worthy of note, but I’d like to draw attention to the six photos located near the front of the gallery taken during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike. The detail is exquisite. In the original print, you can even see writing on the overturned house above. Nearby, another image includes a real estate sign for “beachfront property” marooned on an otherwise devastated suburban shore. And in another, White Picket Fence, Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans, what’s left of a white picket fence has been thrown over a parked sedan. Daniel shot these with a large-format camera while standing on top of his van. Like a reverse Ansel Adams, Daniel’s photos become a record of an America finally at odds with nature.