The title, The Surface Of The World, is a direct reference to the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. Antonioni, in his work, is well known for his use of modern architecture, its design elements, and use of space. While this collection of photographs doesn’t attempt to reconstruct Antonioni’s vision, they are informed by that vision.


The beginning of this collection explores the hard industrial elements of concrete and steel as found in modern architecture. It is the material used to construct the core of a structure. This section explores the foundational elements of art and design. The latter portion of this collection focuses on the architectural facade. This is the reflective surface of many modern buildings. This section explores the expressive elements of art and design. Both of these qualities represents a surface to the viewer. While the first section of photographs is informed in part by the vision of Antonioni, (as well as the approach of modern art as a whole), the latter half is informed in part by the vision of multi-media artist Brion Gysin, as well as the Surrealists.


When viewing the photographs of the reflective surfaces of buildings, the quality that grabs the attention of the viewer is the free-form or abstract image that is being reflected. But what is of equal dominance within each of the photographs, although invisible because it is so commonly understood as an inherent aspect of the composition, is the structuring element imposed by the windows of these buildings. For the photographic composition, this creates a grid. The grid system imposes a systematic structure into which is placed the free form or abstract image. It is this aspect that can be found throughout the works of Brion Gysin.


The Surrealists appropriated and reinvented a technique called Decalcomania where they would use gouache or ink spread thinly upon a piece of paper. Another piece of paper would carefully be pressed against the first and then removed. The result would be an intricate and detailed free-form or abstract image from which, if a person studied it long enough, a series of changing shapes and scenes would be discovered. It is the similarity between the Decalcomania and the reflective elements created by modern architecture that has been captured in these photographs.


Along with the intricate nature of the free-form or abstract image placed within the highly structured grid system, is how each photograph appears. The influence of modern art, more so than traditional photography, informs their look. When viewing the photographs, they appear as though they are anything except photographs. Some appear as though they are oil paintings, others as though composed using pastels, color pencils, or watercolors, and at times some seem to resemble the abstract over-painted photos of Gerhard Richter.


These photographs are, in the modernist sense, found objects. They explore the silence inherent to modern urban space, and they reproduce in the viewer the perceptual disorientation evoked by much of modern life. They abstract time and space while systematically deconstructing the urban environment. They exist as examples of how we as individuals choose to view the world around ourselves, or instead how we might choose to block from our perception, the surface of the world.



Notes regarding location and geography:


All of the photos found in this collection derive from the downtown Denver, CO area. These photos span a three year period from 2009 to 2011. While the objective of this collection is, in part, to illustrate and make a person aware of the extraordinary in the everyday, it is also about repositioning elements of the everyday so that one can view these in a new and different context. Arguably, what has been created, by the designers and architects of the city, is an unintentional art.


While it is desired that a person views these images first as something related to pure form, eventually the viewer will wonder where exactly these photographs were taken. I have chosen to give approximate geographic locations to most of the photos, with a few exceptions when it has become more appropriate to give exact details. On certain occasions, the exact location of a photograph and its building is no longer remembered.


During the period of these photos, the downtown Denver area was undergoing extensive architectural renovation and construction. Old buildings were being torn down, and new ones were being built in their places. In this case, some of these images were taken in relation to this construction. What has been captured is the dismantling of one building being reflected in another. In a situation like this, these photos can never be reproduced or approximated. This is notably the case regarding the demolition of the Denver History Museum and its reflection in the 1290 Broadway office building. The 1290 Broadway office building, architecturally an unstimulating skyscraper, has given me a great number of exciting photos. Unfortunately, with the construction of the new Judicial Center in the place of the Denver History Museum, the 1290 Broadway office building no longer offers stimulating reflections. This is the nature of all photography, which on a basic level is about capturing the ephemeral, a brief moment before that moment is gone.


The following are a few images from the series.

All Copyright Michael P. Toussaint 2017