Burnaway > Reviews > Ways of seeing Bill Daniel’s Ground Score

Ways of seeing Bill Daniel’s Ground Score

Sailvan in Arizona, 2005. Photo courtesy Get This! Gallery. This is a high-resolution image; please click to enlarge.

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.

Bill Daniel, Missing House, Bolivar, Texas, 2008. Photo courtesy Get This! Gallery.

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.

Ground Score continues at Get This! Gallery through October 31, and will be on view during this Saturday’s Westside Arts District Art Walk.

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    Jeremy Abernathy
    October 16, 2009 at

    Thanks! Nice to hear from you, Rob.

    Let me repost your link since the parentheses were interfering with my browser

    I’m guessing this one will be the book cover?

    There’s definitely a parallel. Bill’s Katrina photos, though, are very much tied into the story of his life on the road. He calls Atlanta “the Albuquerque of East” since it’s another hub he travels through so much. The Katrina photos are next to his portraits of train hoppers, and then a jumbled mashup wall of punk rock concerts and postcards from all over. It’s very American in a sort of unexpected way.

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    Rob Stone
    October 16, 2009 at

    Thanks for pointing out this work. Interesting to compare to Mitch Epstein’s American Power series (I believe the book is about to be published; images can be found at http://www.mitchepstein.net/work/americanpower/index.html), which focuses both on energy policy and Katrina incisively.

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