Work of the Week – Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paris by Matthew Pillsbury
by Parker Louise Bobbitt
This week’s Work of the Week is Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paris by Matthew Pillsbury.
Everyday items and places are often made to be used or viewed in a particular way whether this be a television, a piece of furniture or a museum exhibition. In Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paris, along with many of his other works, Matthew Pillsbury challenges conventional perceptions of objects and places.
In Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paris we witness in depth Pillsbury’s interest in movement, light and unusual perspective of cosmopolitan spaces. Appearing as a moving procession of live animals, this museum exhibition comes to life in Pillsbury’s photograph. Taken at the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution in Paris, this work was seemingly created in the museum’s after hours, only using already available light as is a common method seen throughout Pillsbury’s work. The atmosphere in Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paris is moody and almost ethereal. By using only ambient light and working in black and white, the image created is delicate, uniform and holds a depth. The absence of people in a space created for their eyes attributes to Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paris an impression of desolateness.
“What has drawn me to using black and white over the years is this ability of bringing different light sources and creating a uniform whole,” Pillsbury has said. Inspired by the motion in Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase as well as Edweard Muybridge’s capturing of movement in his photographs, Pillsbury has achieved a similar effect. Along with these techniques, his use of a long exposure and his unique perspective has cemented his place as a renowned photographer.
In 1973, Pillsbury was born in Neuilly, France to American parents who had only recently moved to France at the time. Growing up, he was not allowed to watch television and later became fascinated with the way in which it influences lives and cultures. Pillsbury attended École Alsacienne in France and graduated in 1991 with a concentration in Economics and History. He then moved to the United States where he earned his B.A. in Fine Art and, later, his M.F.A. at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has traveled extensively, documenting his destinations through photography along the way.
Pillsbury stated, “One of the things that I’m most interested in is using photography to find something surprising in the everyday and in the things that we’re familiar with. And in making a photograph of a dinosaur skeleton, there’s a way in which you can bring it to life that’s very different than you could with any other medium because obviously in film you could see that it’s a skeleton and that it’s static, but in a photograph we’ve learned how to read movement … and I can use that to create the illusion of movement in those animals and so suddenly the parade of animals in the gallery of evolution or the parade of anatomy, those animals seem to come to life.” Emphasizing qualities that may be seemingly simple such as light and movement, Pillsbury exposes the power of these in all their complexity. Pillsbury is an artist who has continually challenged and changed viewers’ visual perceptions throughout his career.
Artwork above: Matthew Pillsbury, Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paris, 2008, archival pigment ink print, 44 x 30 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Nat C. Myers Photography Fund. Permanent Collection. 2012.44.99.