Hashimoto Contemporary is pleased to present Killing the Negative, a solo exhibition by Tulsa, OK-based artist, Joel Daniel Phillips. Consisting of a new series of charcoal and graphite drawings meditating on Government-censored photographs by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the Great Depression, the exhibition is Phillips’ fifth solo exhibition with the gallery and his debut New York solo exhibition.
In early 2019, Phillips’ stumbled on a photograph by Walker Evans with a giant, black, Baldessari-esque circle marring the center of the image. The black void wasn’t an addition to the image, but rather a subtraction: Someone had taken a hole punch to the original negative.
Phillip’s work centers around questions of truth, historical amnesia, and the veracity of the stories we tell ourselves about our collective pasts. The broader FSA images are of course, well known, and images such as Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange have become some of the most recognizable and important images in the American photographic lexicon. Less known, however, is the process by which these images were selected for publication: Roy Stryker was the head of the FSA, and was tasked with deciding which of the eventual 145,000 commissioned photographs would see the light of day. For the first 4 years of the project, many images he deemed unworthy were “killed” by punching a hole in the original negative.
Killing the Negative explores Stryker’s destructive editing process as a commentary on truth and the veracity of the historical record. His enormous act of editing bears more import than we know to our understanding of our history. It calls into question our reliance on this record, bringing into startling clarity the power that a single individual had to shape the collective understanding of an entire nation. When translated into drawings, the physical subtraction created by the hole-punch acts as a further visual addition, an indelible record of the shaping of the narrative, with the black, circular void both destroying the original image and simultaneously creating an entirely new one.
The larger contemporary political conversation is one that makes many of the questions from the era of the Great Depression deeply resonant; questions of race, class, labor and compensation, land ownership, stratified socio-economics and ecological protection are embedded in the original censored FSA photographs. These almost 100-year-old images are astonishingly contemporary in nature, and when recontextualized as a series of drawings, call into question our assumptions about the truth of our collective past, while simultaneously reflecting on the fabricated foundations of historical narratives in the modern political sphere.
The gallery will be open by appointment only. In order to ensure the health and safety of visitors and staff, please note that masks are legally required for entry. To schedule an appointment, please click HERE.
For more information, additional images, or exclusive content, please email NYC Director, Jennifer Rizzo, at email@example.com