From 14 July to 28 October 2012, the American Museum in Britain, Claverton Manor, Bath, will stage an exhibition evocatively entitled By Way of These Eyes that will present treasures from textile designer Christopher Hyland’s comprehensive collection of American photography. Hyland, president of one of the world’s leading firms specialising in luxury fabrics and founder of the acclaimed HYLAND lifestyle magazine, describes collecting photography as one of the greatest adventures of his life.
Photographers to be represented include, amongst others, Edward Steichen (1879-1973), Edward Weston (1886-1958), Paul Strand (1890-1976), Andreas Feininger (1906-1999), Brett Weston (1911-1993), Joyce Tenneson (b. 1945), Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989), Shelby Lee Adams (b. 1950), Sally Mann (b. 1951), Herb Ritts (1952-2002), Thomas Barbéy (b. 1957), John Dugdale (b. 1960), and David Deal (b. 1970).
Hyland believes that his collection “represents in general the robust and dynamic spirit of American optimism in the twentieth century”. He is particularly fascinated by “bold clear images”, and the collection comprises photography from the early 20th century picturesque to the most contemporary, in particular abstract expressionist.
Iconic images from the early 20th century by artists in awe of the colossal scale of American cities will be displayed alongside “paintings in film” crafted by later generations of photographers working in the United States, who spurned urban monuments for the minutiae of the natural world – the abstract in reality.
The Hyland Collection also includes large abstractions by contemporary photographers experimenting in new technologies – most notably the work of Bill Armstrong. Both Armstrong’s and Hyland’s own photographs address the realm of transformation and of the divine, of the passage of time and of the constant insight derived from change. Hyland’s own Transformation series, which depicts in seven images an individual gradually being completely covered in tattoos, also addresses the issue of a spiritual journey.
To commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee being celebrated throughout Britain this year, Hyland has commissioned Armstrong (fittingly born in 1952) to produce a triptych portrait of Queen Elizabeth II which portrays her as a child, in middle age and the full dignity of her maturity. In honour of the Olympic Games in London in 2012, Hyland has also commissioned Armstrong to create a triptych which, along with Herb Ritts’ iconic image of British Olympian hurdler Jacqui Agyepong, will be on display during the exhibition.
Several images selected for this American Museum exhibition are unabashedly all-American: superlative portraits from David Deal’s study of minor league baseball – its bleachers, dugouts, and little known teams. Deal’s timeless and evocative baseball series has been acclaimed as a journey straight through the heart of an American pastime. Nine of Deal’s baseball photographs will be displayed in By Way of These Eyes. Although the rules of the game may be unfamiliar to British audiences, the hope glimpsed in the eyes of these ballplayers of some day making the big time (or, at least, a better life for themselves and their families) is universal.
Christopher Hyland comments: “In photography, I seek poetry, panache and beauty. I am also looking for something new, something remarkable, something transformational. By way of your eyes, your mind computes where the subject is placed in negative or positive space, the use of light and dark, and whether the resulting image speaks to the ages. If a photograph resonates with you, it is truly something wonderful – a bit of the divine in the resulting emotions you experience as a viewer. I am delighted to have this opportunity to share my collection of American photography with a British audience and their international visitors in so important a year for their country. I can think of no better UK venue to showcase my collection than the American Museum in Britain, which was founded to deepen understanding of American art and culture in Europe – the birthplace of photography.”